The former Prime Minister of Bulgaria is confident there will be no incidents of racism during England’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia – and he will support the Three Lions if they walk off the pitch should the players be racially abused.
Marin Raykov, who is currently Bulgaria’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, joined talkSPORT on Thursday ahead of Monday’s clash in Sofia, with one of the big talking points the potential for racism at the match.
The Vasil Levski National Stadium will be partially closed for the visit of England after Bulgarian supporters were found guilty of racist behaviour during previous matches, and the Three Lions have agreed to stick to UEFA’s ‘three-step’ protocol to racism during the fixture.
The ‘three-step’ protocol begins with a warning and could result in the match being abandoned if abuse continues, though England are not scared to walk off the pitch if they believe UEFA’s protocol is not working.
Tammy Abraham, the Chelsea forward who has been racially abused on social media this season, said earlier this week: “Harry Kane even said that if it happens and we’re not happy with it, we speak to the player and if he’s not happy, we all come off the pitch together.
“It’s a team thing. Don’t isolate one person, we’re a whole team. If it happens to one of us, it happens to all of us.
“We did speak about that.
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“Harry Kane did ask the question about instead of going through the three steps, if we decide that we want to stop the game and we want to stop the game – no matter what the score is – if we’re not happy with it, as a team we’ll decide whether or not to stay on the pitch.”
And Raykov will support England if they do leave the pitch while the game remains ongoing.
“Of course I will [support them],” he told Jim White on talkSPORT. “I would do the same thing.
“It is unacceptable.
“I remain optimistic that we will follow this match with a lot of emotion, of course, and a lot of mutual respect.”
Raykov widely condemned racism and abuse in football and insisted he is confident there will be no incidents during Monday’s qualifier.
He added: “This was very largely commented on in Bulgarian media and official figures in Bulgarian soccer were very outspoken in rejecting such behaviour.
“Personally I remain confident that such reactions will not occur anymore, and if they do there should be a radical reaction to not tolerate such behaviour.
“No matter how isolated such incidents may be, we cannot by any means be proud of them and we strongly condemn them.
“I am sure a huge majority of Bulgarian fans will be absolutely respectful and I sincerely hope we will not be witnessing such problems.”
talkSPORT will bring you full LIVE commentary of both England’s upcoming matches, against Czech Republic on Friday and Bulgaria three days later.