Bulgaria v England: ‘Football family’ must ‘wage war on the racists’ says Uefa president

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Uefa statement in full

“There were times, not long ago, when the football family thought that the scourge of racism was a distant memory. The last couple of years have taught us that such thinking was, at best, complacent.

“The rise of nationalism across the continent has fuelled some unacceptable behaviour and some have taken it upon themselves to think that a football crowd is the right place to give voice to their appalling views.

“As a governing body, I know we are not going to win any popularity contests. But some of the views expressed about Uefa’s approach to fighting racism have been a long way off the mark.

“Uefa, in close cooperation with the Fare network (Football Against Racism Europe), instituted the three-stage protocol for identifying and tackling racist behaviour during games.

“Uefa’s sanctions are among the toughest in sport for clubs and associations whose supporters are racist at our matches. The minimum sanction is a partial closure of the stadium – a move which costs the hosts at least hundreds of thousands in lost revenue and attaches a stigma to their supporters.

“Uefa is the only football body to ban a player for ten matches for racist behaviour – the most severe punishment level in the game. Believe me, Uefa is committed to doing everything it can to eliminate this disease from football. We cannot afford to be content with this; we must always strive to strengthen our resolve.

“More broadly, the football family – everyone from administrators to players, coaches and fans – needs to work with governments and NGOs to wage war on the racists and to marginalise their abhorrent views to the fringes of society.

“Football associations themselves cannot solve this problem. Governments too need to do more in this area. Only by working together in the name of decency and honour will we make progress.”

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Uefa also charged Bulgaria with throwing objects and showing replays on a giant screen.

England were also charged with providing an insufficient number of stewards. No date has been set for a hearing.

Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov said after the match that he “did not hear” any racist chanting.

The Vasil Levski Stadium was already partially closed for the match after Bulgaria were sanctioned for racist behaviour during qualifiers against Kosovo and the Czech Republic.

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Copa Libertadores: Boca Juniors & River Plate to do battle again

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River Plate players celebrate
River Plate players celebrate on the pitch after winning last year’s final

Argentine rivals River Plate and Boca Juniors will meet in Wednesday’s Copa Libertadores semi-final, nine months after their controversial 2018 final.

The fixture was originally postponed after Boca’s team bus was attacked by River fans, causing injury to players.

It was then moved 6,000 miles from Buenos Aires to Madrid before River won 5-3 on aggregate at the Bernabeu.

The Copa Libertadores is the showpiece club competition in South America, equivalent to the Champions League in Europe, and there were several household names in attendance last year, including Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Juventus’ Pablo Dybala.

The ferociousness of the rivalry was evident in the build-up to the final – a number of players, including Boca’s Carlos Tevez, reportedly suffered from dizziness and vomiting after the attack by River fans.

Boca argued River should have been disqualified from the competition and a late attempt to postpone the second leg was rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).

When the fixture eventually took place it didn’t disappoint – Juan Quintero scored a stunning extra-time strike in a 3-1 second-leg victory for River, who came from a goal down against 10-man Boca following a 2-2 draw in the first leg.

The two rivals played out a 0-0 draw on their most recent meeting, in the Superliga Argentina on 1 September, a match featuring 10 yellow cards.

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