September 13 – England manager Gareth Southgate says England players will meet to “prepare” how to react to racism before their Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria on October 14 following a resurgence of incidents that have tarnished the sport across Europe.
That England feel the need to have such a meeting is perhaps a sad reflection on the failure of football’s governing bodies to effectively police racism in international football, as much as it is on Bulgarian football fan racism.
Bulgaria’s Stadion Vasil Levski will be partially closed for the visits of England and Czech Republic because of the racist behaviour of fans in June.
England players were also subjected to racist abuse in Bulgaria in 2011 and Southgate said: “It is a concern, we’re not confident that we’ll go there and nothing will happen.
“It’s something that we’ve already planned. We’ve already planned what our schedule looks like and we’re going to discuss it with the players before we go, because we’re aware that there is history there and we want to make sure that we’re all prepared for what might happen and how we want to respond.”
Meanwhile England winger Jadon Sancho says incidents of racism have made him question why he plays football.
“It just has to stop,” said the Borussia Dortmund rising star. “No player wants to play football and have abuse like that. It puts the confidence down in players and the love of the sport will go very soon if it doesn’t stop.
“It is hard to see things like this because it feels like, ‘why should we play football?'”
According to former Manchester captain Vincent Kompany the problem is rooted in the lack of diversity in the game’s top authorities.
Speaking in the wake of his Belgian compatriot Romelu Lukaku being racially abused by Cagliari fans while playing for Inter Milan – after which Lukaku suggested the game was “going backwards” – Kompany, now manager of Anderlecht, added: “Romelu is a victim of something disgraceful not just in football, but also in society.”
“The real racism lies in the fact none of these institutions have representatives that can actually understand what Romelu is going through.
“You are dealing with a crowd of people and decision-makers who are telling him how he should think and feel about this when you have no decision-makers who are remotely in touch with what he has experienced in his life.
“That’s the real issue – if you go through the boards at UEFA or FIFA, the Italian League or the English League, there is a real lack of diversity. If you don’t have diversity in places of power like boardrooms then you can’t have the right decisions in terms of sanctions – it’s a simple as that.”
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