Bulgaria manager (finally) and captain condemn racist abuse of England players
Sections of the crowd targeted black members of the England team throughout the visitors' 6-0 win in a Euro 2020 qualifier.
Four men have been detained by Bulgarian police following the shameful episode, while UEFA have charged the Bulgarian Football Association for the home fans' behaviour.
And national team manager Krasimir Balakov has now apologised to Tyrone Mings, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Callum Wilson and Jadon Sancho, despite having declared before the match that English football had more problems with racism than Bulgaria.
"I condemn unconditionally all forms of racism as unacceptable behaviour that contradicts normal human relationships," he wrote on Facebook. "I think that this form of prejudice should be buried deep in our past, and nobody should ever be subjected.
"I trained many Bulgarian teams with players of different backgrounds and never judged anyone about the colour of their skin. In addition, I have always actively participated in all initiatives involving unprivileged people or the needy.
"My comments before the game against England that Bulgaria had no problems with racism are based on the fact that the local championship has not seen such a problem on a large scale.
"There may have been isolated cases, but it's definitely not something you see in the stadium. The majority of football fans do not take part in such chants, and I believe that was also the case in the game against England.
"One thing I would like to say very clearly is that as the stadium in Sofia has reported cases of racial discrimination, I sincerely apologise to the English footballers and those who feel offended."
Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov also spoke out against the monkey chants, Nazi salutes and jeers, having confronted the fans at half-time and asked them to stop.
“Of course I feel embarrassed,” he said. “We are 11 vs 11, it doesn’t matter your colour, it’s no problem, we are all the same, we are one very big family in football, everybody and only we, if we are together, can we stop these bad things.
“It was important that I spoke like this because it’s a very big problem for everybody, for our federation, for England and if they said more bad words, even one more time, then maybe they would finish the game.
“We would have such a big punishment and this is no good for Bulgarian football because if some other players want to come here, they hear what is said and how they speak bad, then this is no good for everybody.
“I don’t want it to be like this, it’s not good for us, the federation and our country. How do I feel? I don’t feel good because we didn’t play well, we lost 6-0 and also this what happened was terrible.”