Bulgaria manager Krasimir Balakov accused England of having a bigger problem with racism than his own country last week – and Raheem Sterling called him out after being abused during Monday’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia.
Sterling was, along with Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings, targeted by Bulgaria supporters throughout England’s 6-0 win, with monkey noises heard at the Natsionalen Stadion Vasil Levski.
A section of fans were also pictured making Nazi salutes, with the match officials twice stopping play in the first half to adhere to UEFA’s three-step protocol for dealing with racism.
Ahead of the game, Balakov, the Bulgaria coach, took umbrage at the suggestions there was guaranteed to be racial abuse during the match, and he wrote a letter of complaint to UEFA over ‘unjust branding’ of the country.
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He later suggested England has a bigger problem with racism than Bulgaria.
“What I can say is that I don’t think we have a problem,” said Balakov.
“In the Bulgarian championship, we have a lot of players of different ethnicities and skin colour. I don’t think that we have this big problem like, for example, England do.”
Balakov’s comments have aged poorly, and Sterling called out the boss on social media after Monday’s match.
“Mmmmh … Not sure about this one chief,” the Man City forward wrote on Twitter while quote tweeting the initial story covering Balakov’s comments.
A host of other England players took to social media after the game, including Mings, who was similarly targeted by supporters.
“Very proud moment for me and my family tonight to make my @England debut” he wrote. “The unfortunate incidents in the game were handled as well as possible & proud of how we handled it.”