‘Football family must wage war on racists’

Disgraceful: England defender Tobias Mings (left) faces racist Bulgaria fans.

Should England have walked off the field? England triumphed over Bulgaria 6-0, but the victory was marred by racist Bulgaria fans who caused the game to be stopped twice.

“England made a powerful statement in Sofia as they delivered the most eloquent response in disgraceful, dispiriting circumstances of racism,” wrote Phil McNulty, the BBC’s chief football writer.

England put on a virtuoso display in their Euro 2020 qualifier on Monday, beating their Bulgarian hosts 6-0 in a game marred by the home fans’ racism.

Play was stopped twice in response to the behaviour of hooded Bulgaria fans, who performed Nazi salutes and shouted monkey chants at black players including defender Tyrone Mings, who was making his England debut.

In the run-up to the match, new England recruit Tammy Abraham had suggested that England would talk off the pitch if they faced racist abuse from fans.

Currently, UEFA has a three-step protocol to deal with crowd racism: first, tannoy announcements in the stadium; then the match may be stopped for five to 10 minutes and, if that fails, the referee can abandon the game.

But for Abraham, the policy is simply not good enough. “One time, twice, three times — it gives silly people excuses,” he said.

After a half-time discussion, the England players decided to play on and responded to the night’s difficult match with two second-half goals.

But should England have simply walked off the pitch?

End of the line

No, says former England goalkeeper David James, who has himself faced plenty of racist abuse. The best approach is to play on. “Providing there is no physical danger to players, the best way they can answer abuse is by playing the best they can, winning the game, walking off the pitch at the end of 90 minutes and putting in a complaint.”

Yes, says The Times’s sports writer Henry Winter. The players “do not trust match officials to react strongly and swiftly enough, they believe the authorities do not confront the bigots with the required vigour. Enough is enough”.

You Decide

  1. Should England players stop the match if they see racism?

Activities

  1. Find out five facts about Tyrone Mings, England’s new defender.

Some People Say...

“If you want to know if racism is a problem in your country, you might not want to ask white people.”

Tim Wise, US anti-racism campaigner

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
On Tuesday, UEFA (the European football governing body) charged Bulgaria over the racist behaviour of its fans during their Euro 2020 qualifying loss against England during Monday’s game. The head of Bulgarian football also resigned, after being told to do so by his country’s prime minister.
What do we not know?
If racism in football can be kicked out. Clubs and authorities are coming under pressure to implement more serious punishments.

Word Watch

Sofia
The capital of Bulgaria. The stadium was already half-empty, having been part-closed by UEFA after fans were racist during two matches against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June.
Eloquent
Usually used to describe speech, here it means strong and expressive.
Dispiriting
Depressing.
Virtuoso
Very highly skilled.
Marred
Ruined; overshadowed with negativity.
Protocol
The official way of doing something.
Tannoy
Loudspeaker.

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