President of Bulgarian soccer resigns after fan racism, loss

Sports

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP)Criticized around Europe for the racist behavior of Bulgarian fans and under pressure from the country’s prime minister following a run of poor results, the president of the country’s soccer federation resigned on Tuesday.

A few hours later, Bulgarian special police forces raided the federation offices. It was unclear what they were looking for.

Borislav Mihailov, a former national team goalkeeper who reached the World Cup semifinals in 1994 and served as president for 14 years, will present his resignation to the federation’s executive committee on Friday, the soccer body said in a statement.

The decision comes one day after Bulgaria lost to England 6-0 in a European Championship qualifying game that was halted twice as fans in Sofia made Nazi salutes and directed monkey noises at the black players on the visiting team.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov condemned the racist behavior.

”It is unacceptable that Bulgaria, one of the most tolerant countries in the world where people of different ethnicities live in peace, to be associated with racism and xenophobia,” Borissov wrote in a post on Facebook.

The Bulgarian soccer federation distanced itself from the racist abuse.

”The football authority cannot take responsibility for acts of hooliganism,” federation spokesman Hristo Zapryanov said. ”That’s where the state authorities come in. In many other countries, including our opponent last night, the state has taken serious measures to get rid of hooliganism. All we can do is condemn it but we do not have the jurisdiction to investigate hooligans.”

Bulgarian fans have already been sanctioned for other racist abuse in qualifying for Euro 2020 and played the match against England on Monday in a partially closed stadium.

In his post, Borissov also called for Mihailov to resign because of the team’s poor results. He said he ordered sports minister Krasen Kralev to terminate any relations with Mihailov until he quits.

Zapryanov, however, at first said Mihailov would not step down. The resignation announcement came a short time later.

Not long after that, more than 50 uniformed police entered the federation offices, according to local media.

Bulgaria is last in its Euro 2020 qualifying group but will have a second chance to advance through playoffs in March.

Mihailov played in England after the 1994 World Cup and later was elected to the UEFA executive committee for eight years until February.

FIFA has rules protecting soccer federations from government interference, including suspension as a possible punishment.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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