The European qualifier between England and Bulgaria was overshadowed by racial slurs from the Bulgarian fans in the stand, and sparked a long-term debate about the state of racism that still prevails. The match was halted twice due to inappropriate chants addressed towards English centre back Tyrone Mings, with one section of the crowd even performing Nazi salutes.
England’s 6-0 victory was sidelined due to the chaos that ensued, and the players expressed their disappointment over the unfortunate turn of events. After a huge backlash by the footballing fraternity, Belgian football chief Borislav Mihaylov resigned from his post, showing that the UEFA will be harsh on instances of situations inciting racism. Although, similar instances in the past have blighted the game and left the fans fuming. Here we look at three instances when players acted upon the racial abuse they faced from the crowds in the stadium.
Mario Balotelli’s resolve against AS Roma
Known for his grand personality and unflinching confidence on the pitch, Mario Balotelli has often been a victim of racial chants. During an encounter against AS Roma back in 2013, Mario was subjected to offensive monkey chants at the San Siro stadium in Milan.
The then AC Milan forward responded by putting a finger on his lips, showcasing it to the offending supporters. Despite repeated announcements in the stadium to stop the unnecessary chants, the chants continued for a while and the match wasn’t abandoned.
Mario’s stance against the offensive supporters was acknowledged by players across the spectrum but the true perpetrators were never identified. He was subjected to another racial profiling back in 2017 when he was playing for Nice against Bastia in the French league. However, this time Ligue 1 took disciplinary action against Bastia and the club endured a three-match ban at home for the fans as they played behind closed doors.
Kevin Constant decided enough is enough
In a pre-season friendly against Sassuolo, the AC Milan midfielder was the subject of huge abuse by the home supporters and advertently kicked the ball into the crowd in frustration. He decided to walk off the pitch while the referee issued a warning to abandon the match if the racial assaults continued.
The Guinean international was substituted, and expressed his displeasure when the club displayed only half-hearted support for the incident. Although he walked off, play resumed and the match was completed.
Kevin Prince Boateng led a player walk-off
Kevin Prince Boateng led a player walk-off against fourth division side Pro Patria when the former was subjected to racial abuse by the supporters. It was a friendly fixture that didn’t end well as the match was abandoned after just 26 minutes. Boateng decided to pick up the ball and address it to his teammates that they will not be taking part in this sadistic fest.
As a result of the same, Pro Patria were forced to play a match behind closed doors but that didn’t seem a long-term solution.
England’s decision to continue against Bulgaria was brave but the answer to racism is still a work-in-progress and will need UEFA to build up a solid policy to ensure fair play in the future.
Feature image courtesy: AFP/ Paul Ellis