'Abhorrent': England Football Match Stopped Twice By Nazi Salutes
A football match between England and Bulgaria was halted twice in the first half as visiting English players were targeted with "abhorrent" and "unacceptable" racist abuse.
England thrashed Bulgaria 6-0 in the Euro2020 qualifier in Sofia, but the match was marred by what happened in the stands.
Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings were among several black English footballers who were targeted with racist abuse from the crowd.
Bulgarian fans were heard booing Sterling each time he came close to the ball and directing monkey chants towards Mings, while others were filmed performing Nazi salutes in the stands.
Some supporters were seen holding up shirts with the European soccer's governing body UEFA logo and the slogan, "No Respect", appearing to mock its campaign to curb racism in the sport.
At one point, Mings -- who was making his international debut -- turned to a linesman and asked, "hey, did you hear that?"
He complained to the assistant referee and England captain Harry Kane about 30 minutes into the game.
The racist behaviour prompted the European soccer's governing body UEFA to implement its three-step protocol -- where the referee first halts play to speak to supporters, then suspends the match with a second warning, and finally abandons the game.
The first pause came in the 28th minute when a stadium announcement condemned the abuse and indicated the referee may have to suspend the match.
"Please be in no doubt that the game may be suspended and abandoned if racist behaviour continues," the announcement said.
It did, and the referee suspended the match as both teams were sent to their dressing rooms.
The game was later restarted after discussions between the referee and England manager Gareth Southgate.
Southgate said there had been a "long discussion".
"We were very clear that if there was anything at the beginning of the second half we would have walked straight off and frankly I don't think we would have gone back," he said.
Bulgarian captain Ivelin Popov spent time talking to fans through the fence at the break but sporadic abuse was still heard in the second half.
England went on to win the match, strengthening their place at the top of Group A.
'One Of The Most Appalling Nights'
English Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Clarke, who was at the Levski Stadium, said it was "probably one of the most appalling nights (he has) seen in football".
The FA also issued a statement, confirming England players were subjected to "abhorrent" racing chanting during the qualifier.
"This is unacceptable at any level of the game and our immediate focus is supporting the players and staff involved," it said.
Speaking to BBC Radio, Mings said the players had decided as a group at halftime to continue the game.
"I am proud of how we dealt with it and took the appropriate steps," he said.
The FA confirmed it will be asking UEFA to conduct an investigation "as a matter of urgency".
"As we are sadly aware, this is not the first time our players have been subjected to this level of abuse and there is no place for this kind of behaviour in society, let alone in football," it said.