Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov has conceded that he was left feeling embarrassed after the racism controversy against England.
The encounter in Sofia was stopped twice in the first half as some of the England players were subjected to racist abuse and chants.
While the game was allowed to finish as it had risked being abandoned with a third stoppage, England secured a dominant 6-0 win in Sofia to silence the disgraceful racist abuse as best they could.
Popov was praised though after the game by many, including Marcus Rashford, as he attempted to talk with the ‘fans’ at half-time to urge them to stop.
It was a much more commendable approach and view to take compared to some of the comments from his coach and teammates, and the 31-year-old has undoubtedly done the right thing not only during the game but also now with his comments after it.
“How do I feel? I don’t feel good because we didn’t play well,” he is quoted as saying by The Sun. “We lost 6-0 and what happened during the game was terrible.
“And if the fans said more bad words, even one more time, then maybe they would have not finished the game. We would have had such a big punishment and it would have been no good for Bulgarian football.
“They were not happy when I went over. That is normal because the first half was 4-0, they were very angry and were saying to me, ‘don’t speak to us’. But when I started to speak to them, then they understood. I think in the second half, the situation was better.”
“No. It doesn’t matter your colour. We are all the same, we are one very big family in football. Only if we are together can we stop these bad things.
“England are one of the top teams, a very good team.“I saw how the coach in training was helping them combine well on the pitch. It’s difficult to play against a team like this.”
With more individuals like Popov involved, perhaps Bulgarian football has a chance of overcoming their obvious problem with racism even if from a minority, as he has addressed it head on and not shirked away from it like many other individuals.
In turn, it remains to be seen what action UEFA take, and whether or not the Bulgarian FA also introduce measures and disciplinary action themselves to remove these so-called fans from the stadiums in the future.