Raheem Sterling scored twice in England’s 6-0 thrashing of Bulgaria on Monday night, and he was in similarly clinical form with his assessment of opposition manager Krasimir Balakov after the game.
The Euro 2020 qualifier was twice halted by the match referee due to racist abuse directed towards players of colour such as Sterling and debutant Tyrone Mings.
Balakov had said before the game that he didn’t think Bulgaria had any more of a problem with racism than England, after England’s fears had been made public before the game.
“What I can say is that I don’t think we have a problem,” he said. “In the Bulgarian championship, we have a lot of players of different ethnicities and skin colour. I don’t think we have as big a problem like, for example, England do.”
Sterling’s reaction was straight to the point.
Mmmmh ... Not sure about this one chief https://t.co/Jyjr6vFtA8— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) October 14, 2019
Also on the scoresheet on the night was Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, who opened the scoring with a superbly struck effort early on.
He, like Sterling, was replaced late in the second half, and it seems he took the opportunity to collect his thoughts before taking to Twitter.
Not an easy situation to play in and not one which should be happening in 2019. Proud we rose above it to take three points but this needs stamping out. pic.twitter.com/jTnUGOa8z2— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) October 14, 2019
Sterling, too, followed with a lengthier response soon after.
Feeling sorry for Bulgaria to be represented by such idiots in their stadium. Anyway.. 6-0 and we go back home, at least we did our job. Safe travel to our fans, u guys did well 🤟🏾❤️— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) October 14, 2019
England manager Gareth Southgate was keen to praise the performance of the match officials in difficult circumstances, telling ITV after the match: “I have to say that the officials were onto everything very quickly.
“We reported everything immediately when we heard things, we had constant communication with the fourth official and the referee. I was in contact with the players all the way through the first half in particular and then again at half-time.
“We know it’s an unacceptable situation. I think we have managed to make two statements, really: by winning the game and also raising the awareness of everybody to the situation. The game was stopped twice, and I know for some people that won’t be enough, but I think we were, as a group, on board with that process.”
Southgate was singled out for praise by former England striker Gary Lineker after the game.
Gareth Southgate has shown, once again, under trying circumstances what a sound, measured and intelligent leader he is. We’ve got the right man in charge of our young team at the right time. 👍🏻— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) October 14, 2019
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn also gave his support to England's players and called for UEFA to take a stronger stance on racism.
Players past and present were united in one general theme – that UEFA has to take stronger action to prevent such scenes from taking place again.
The best way to bounce back. Proud of the team. There’s no place in football for that - disgraceful behaviour. Something must be done. 🏴 @England— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) October 14, 2019
Proud of the England players coaching staff coming together as one, let’s see what uefa do about this disgusting behaviour, no more statements we need action— Darren Bent (@DarrenBent) October 14, 2019