England: Gareth Southgate understands Bulgaria reaction to racism concerns

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By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer in Prague
England manager Gareth Southgate says that he understands the Bulgarian soccer authorities fury at hints racism could overshadow the Euro 2020 qualifier of Monday.
Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham said on Wednesday Englands players will be ready to walk off when they suffered abuse into that directed at them during Marchs qualifier in Montenegro.
Southgate, talking earlier Fridays interview with the Czech Republic, has held a meeting explaining the official Uefa protocol to handling such events – but Englands concerns prompted an angry response from BFU president Borislav Mihaylov.
At a letter to Uefa, he predicted Englands remarksthe unfair branding of local spectators as people inclined to discriminatory behaviour.
Mondays game against Bulgaria is going to be played with 5,000 of those 46,000 chairs to be left vacant after behaviour by Bulgaria enthusiasts against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June, at a stadium that is partly closed, something Mihaylov doesnt address in his letter.
However, Southgate said:I can completely understand the Bulgarian president feels as he does since we have only been reacting honestly to questions we have been requested.
That has been relayed to Bulgaria in whatever way it has been relayed and how its been pitched might seem provocative, or we are the folks laying the topic onto the table.
So, if I had been him, and I was just reading these quotes rather than knowing the context of why what were said and the answers, then I would feel probably as he does.
We arent trying to make a situation in any respect, away from it. Were all hoping that over the next 72 hours we speaking about two soccer matches.
I think both countries would have a powerful desire for that and I have to say again, we dont look at other nations in a manner we dont shine a mirror in our.
Southgate stated:What happened in Hartlepool a few weeks ago was likely worse than things Ive heard or seen about in a number of other countries on earth. So, I believe we must be quite careful in how we pay for everything.
There have been allegations of abuse in Dover Athletic at September and a game between Hartlepool United.
Uefa protocol decrees that in case of racist chanting the participant will request a statement to be broadcast at the arena, and if it doesnt stop he or she will take the players off, originally temporarily but permanently if necessary.
Southgate included:The most important thing for me personally was that each of the players and each one the staff understand that theyre supported, which we are together on every issue moving forward and of course, inevitably, because we have endured a situation in Montenegro, we desired to be more clear what could happen if something else happened later on.
Were quite clear on this. Theres of course the Uefa procedure and we will need to have faith in this process.
Lately, a match was stopped in Italy because of that and then everything is hypothetical because we do not understand the scenario that well be in as a staff, or Ill be a supervisor. However, were very clear concerning each. We want the players to be able to concentrate on soccer. They want to be judged on their soccer and what I have got to do is provide a safe and secure environment to perform .
England striker Raheem Sterling admitted the squad werent prepared for the abuse they obtained in Podgorica but today there must be religion in Uefas system.
He explained:With the situation that happened in Montenegro, I dont feel as a team we were very prepared and understanding that there was a protocol in place.
We had a meeting as a group and Gareth sat down and explained Uefas protocol and now, as players, we have got to provide Uefa an opportunity to take that obligation on board and handle the situation. However, yes, I have full faith in Uefa.
England have maximum points and success in Prague on Friday will affirm eligibility for Euro 2020.

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