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HomeBalkansFootball Fan Clashes in Bulgaria Spark Calls for Resignations

Football Fan Clashes in Bulgaria Spark Calls for Resignations

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Bulgarian police arrested 33 protesters and recorded over 80 infrastructural damages in Sofia after police and frustrated football fans clashed in the city, authorities stated on Friday.

Bulgaria’s capital was gripped by protests on Thursday night after some 4,000 football fans took to the streets to demand the resignation of the Bulgarian Football Union’s President, Borislav Mihaylov, while Bulgaria was playing with Hungary in Sofia.

Fan fury peaked after the Football Union decided the Euro 2024 qualifier match would be played behind closed doors.

People were arrested on charges ofg hooliganism or destruction of property during the demonstrations. According to the media, and as videos suggest, some passers-by were arrested although they were not taking part in the protests.

Fan opposition to Mihaylov’s presidency has been growing for years. Since 2021, a movement to oust him has been led by a former football star, the Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen striker Dimitar Berbatov, who is eyeing the presidential position.

“I’m against any kind of aggression during protests because this only breeds more aggression,” Berbatov told bTV on Friday and added that he didn’t witness tension among football fans but between the protesters and the police.

“People were ready to protest at the stadium as a regular audience, but after that right was taken away from them, emotions were bound to escalate,” he said.

The protests prompted government coalition partners “We Continue the Change” and Democratic Bulgaria to demand the resignations of both Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov and Mihaylov over the chaotic situation.

Sofia’s recently elected reformist mayor, Vassil Terziev, stated on Thursday that “the protests are a sign that in recent years football in Bulgaria has not developed at the needed level and a change is long due”.

On Friday, GERB leader and former PM Boyko Borissov accused Terziev of “adding fuel to the tension” but also called for the resignation of Mihaylov.

The match between Bulgaria and Hungary at Sofia’s National Stadium ended in a 2-2 draw, with only some Hungarians, likely part of the visiting delegation, as spectators.

“We had no idea what was happening outside. We and the team have the least responsibility for this,” Bulgaria’s new coach, Ilian Iliev, said on Thursday.

Iliev took up the post after Serbian Mladen Krstajić was sacked on October 26 for poor results, including recent defeats by Albania and Lithuania.

The draw in Sofia was enough for Hungary to climb to the top of Group G and qualify for the Euro 2024 finals.

Bulgaria remains at the bottom of the group. The 1998 World Cup and Euro 2004 were the last high-profile tournaments in which Bulgaria’s national team took part.

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