The UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying game between Bulgaria and England was halted twice in the first half due to racist abuse. Referee of the match, Ivan Bebek, was forced to trigger the first two steps of UEFA's three-step protocol as a result of the happening in Monday's encounter inside the Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia.
The match-up was primarily dominated by England from the onset with Marcus Rashford opening the scoring in the seventh-minute with a stunning effort. 13 minutes later, Ross Barkley doubled the lead for the Three Lions aided by Raheem Sterling.
However, the proceeding was called to a halt for the first time in the 28th-minute with a stadium announcement bringing to light the racist behavior of fans. The announcer condemned the act and before making it clear that the match could be abandoned should the racism continue.
OFFICIAL: A public message has been played inside the Stadion Vasil Levski warning fans that the referee will cancel England vs. Bulgaria if the "racist behaviour" continues. pic.twitter.com/sRxR7UdwSv— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) October 14, 2019
"Because of racist behaviour which is interfering with the game, the referee has indicated he may have to suspend the match," he declared.
"Please be in no doubt that the game may be suspended and abandoned if racist behaviour continues."
Game in Bulgaria stopped due to racism.— Jan Aage Fjortoft (@JanAageFjortoft) October 14, 2019
UEFA have to use their strongest sanctions. Like take one corner flag away the next game.
If you do it again: Two corner flags
Looking at the pictures of those carrying out the racism + Nazi salutes in Bulgaria makes you realise that this is not ignorant football fans who are responsible, it looks organised and political.— Martyn Ziegler (@martynziegler) October 14, 2019
In the 43rd-minute, the game was stopped once again and was only resumed after a discussion between the referee and England boss Gareth Southgate. Prior to the Monday's qualifying clash, there were rising concerns in the camp of England as players feared that they could be subjected to racial abuse.
However, in the buildup to the encounter a number of players as well as the team's manager stated that they were more than eager to walk off should the trend continue in-game.