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Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov has admitted that he was embarrassed by his own fans and said their behaviour on Monday night was 'terrible.'
Popov was the Bulgarian hero on a night of villains and foul behaviour as the captain approached Bulgaria fans at half time and pleaded with them to stop the racist abuse directed at England players.
The pleas worked to an extent with less abuse coming after half time, amidst the threat of the game being abandoned, and following the match the 31-year-old said he was embarrassed by the fans, saying, "Of course I feel embarrassed.
"We are 11 v 11, it doesn't matter your colour, it's no problem, we are all the same, we are one very big family in football, everybody and only we, if we are together, can we stop these bad things.
"It was important that I spoke like this because it's a very big problem for everybody, for our federation, for England and if they said more bad words, even one more time, then maybe they would finish the game.
"We would have such a big punishment and this is no good for Bulgarian football because if some other players want to come here, they hear what is said and how they speak bad, then this is no good for everybody."
Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov has been pleading with the home fans at half-time to stop the racist chanting. pic.twitter.com/bH77WOzKnY- SPORTbible (@sportbible) October 14, 2019
Popov earned praise from England forward Marcus Rashford who took to Twitter to say, "Been told what the Bulgaria captain did at half-time. To stand alone and do the right thing takes courage and acts like that shouldn't go unnoticed."
Also been told what the Bulgaria captain did at half-time. To stand alone and do the right thing takes courage and acts like that shouldn't go unnoticed. #NoToRacism- Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) October 14, 2019
Midfielder Popov called for the racism to stop, with Bulgaria already being punished during the England game for previous incidents with parts of the stadium being closed, adding, "It must stop. In this country, we have a team like Ludogorets, who have players from every country, I never listened (heard) this sort of problem in the Bulgarian championship and I don't know why they made like this because many fans are fans and supporters of English football.
"There are fan clubs from Chelsea , Liverpool , Manchester, it's incredible and I don't know why they made this. For me, it's incredible, a surprise."
Popov deserves plenty of praise for sticking his head above the parapet, hopefully fans listen to him.
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