‘The game was so friendly’: Bulgarian journalist heckles Gareth Southgate’s press conference

Gareth Southgate looks utterly bemused in his press conference as he is heckled by a Bulgarian journalist shouting out that the game with England was ‘so friendly’ – despite the visitors nearly walking off because of racist chants from the crowd

  • England boss Gareth Southgate was heckled by Bulgarian journalist on Monday
  • Three Lions’ Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria was marred by racist chanting
  • A Bulgarian reporter labelled the accusations of racism as ‘absolutely not true’

By Kate Mcgreavy For Mailonline

Published: 10:45 BST, 15 October 2019 | Updated: 15:28 BST, 15 October 2019

Gareth Southgate had his post-match press conference in Sofia interrupted by a Bulgarian journalist who heckled him to claim the shameful racist chanting in England’s 6-0 win had been exaggerated. 

The Three Lions’ Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria was marred by racist chanting and the game had to be halted twice by UEFA officials due to the abuse.

But one Bulgarian reporter labelled the accusations of racism ‘absolutely not true’ during Southgate’s post-match press conference – while a local cameraman was overheard telling the England boss to ‘f*** off’.

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 England boss Gareth Southgate was heckled by a Bulgarian journalist in his press conference

England players were subjected to horrific racist abuse by Bulgaria fans during their 6-0 win

As English Press Association reporter Simon Peach was asked to pose a question to Southgate by a press officer, a Bulgarian reporter interrupted and said: ‘This is absolutely not true.

‘What difficult situation and circumstances? What are you talking about? It’s an exaggeration.’

The press officer said: ‘I appreciate your opinion but we’ll continue with the press conference otherwise we’ll end it now.’

The Bulgarian journalist responded: ‘The game was so friendly.’

Southgate, who revealed he came close to leading his team off the field in Sofia, looked bemused throughout the whole encounter.

The reporter’s comments came despite England’s players facing racist chants and monkey noises before and during the Euro 2020 qualifier on Monday night.

On a night of shame in Sofia: 

  • The game is halted TWICE as home fans abuse black players, brandish ‘No Respect’ shirts and make Nazi salutes in planned racist onslaught
  • Tyrone Mings reveals vile chants started before kick-off in Bulgaria
  • Marcus Rashford praises ‘courage’ of Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov for appealing to fans at half-time to stop racist taunting of England players
  • England boss Gareth Southgate considered taking his players off the pitch against Bulgaria as FA chairman Greg Clarke condemns racist taunting
  • Ian Wright said England players taking action against racism made him ‘feel really good’
  • Raheem Sterling called out Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov for saying England have a bigger racism problem than his own country
  • UEFA are set to use evidence from specialist ‘spotters’ in the crowd and TV footage to prosecute after Bulgarian fans’ appalling racist taunts  
  • Southgate was heckled in his press conference and told to ‘f***’ off by a Bulgarian cameraman 
  • Bulgaria’s prime minister has now called on the president of their FA to quit over the racist incidents 

 A Bulgarian reporter labelled the accusations of racism as ‘absolutely not true’ on Monday

As an English reporter was asked to pose a question, a Bulgarian reporter interrupted

At the end of Southgate’s press conference, British Press staff reported that a Bulgarian television cameraman told Southgate to ‘f*** off’.

England debutant Tyrone Mings had complained to referee’s assistant Bojan Zobenica that he had been targeted in the 22nd minute of the game and monkey chants were heard whenever Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford were on the ball and home fans were seen making Nazi salutes.

But much of the reaction from the Bulgaria camp has been to play down events. 

Manager Krasimir Balakov insisted he did not hear any racist chanting from his nation’s supporters and slammed fans for interrupting the Bulgaria national anthem.

He told ITV: ‘I personally did not hear the chanting you are most probably referring to. I saw that the referee stopped the game.

‘But I also have to say the unacceptable behaviour was not only on behalf of the Bulgaria fans but also the England fans who were whistling and shouting during the Bulgaria national anthem and during the second half they used words against our fans which I find unacceptable.’

There were two breaks in play in Sofia after racist chanting was reported to the match officials. Bulgaria fans are pictured making monkey noises 

The behaviour of Bulgaria fans was met with widespread outrage and condemnation by players on the field and spectators 

Players and manager Gareth Southgate gather around the match referees to alert them about the horrific abuse the black players were being subjected to

And Bulgaria goalkeeper Plamen Iliev has said the home fans ‘behaved well’ while claiming England’s players ‘overreacted’.

‘If I am honest, I believe they [the fans] behaved well today,’ Iliev said. ‘There wasn’t any abuse [as far as I could hear] and I think they [the players] overreacted a bit. The public was on a good level – I didn’t hear any bad language used towards their or our players.’

The prime minister of Bulgaria has demanded that the country’s FA president steps down over the shocking racist treatment that England’s black players were subjected to.

Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov says the government will freeze all relations with the Bulgarian FA – including denying them any funding – until Borislav Mihaylov steps down.

England forward Sterling backed Borisov’s call, labelling it a ‘good move’. UEFA are expected to take further action against Bulgaria once they receive a report from Monday night’s match. 

Bulgaria boss Krasimir Balakov insists he did not hear any racist chanting from his nation’s fans

Plamen Iliev claimed England’s players ‘overreacted’ to the abuse coming from the stands


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