Bulgaria boss Balakov should have been sacked on the spot – Paul Ince

And walking off would have made a real statement, says Incey.

Krasimir Balakov


If I was working for the Bulgarian FA I’d be sacking Krasimir Balakov straight away. When he got asked why his captain went over to speak to supporters, he said he was apologising because they were playing so badly.

If the manager is saying that, what message does that send out to the fans? He even tried to turn it on the English fans. How can you have someone like that representing your country? I actually played against Balakov back in the day, he was a fantastic player but he is meant to be a leader.

He’s meant to be the one who stands up and says ‘I won’t allow this in my national team’. Instead he goes completely the other way and claims not to have heard it.

Half of me thinks great, we stood up to them and played the game, got the points and left. But another side thinks it didn’t make a big enough statement by doing that. I think we could have made a bigger statement by walking off, getting the game abandoned and still getting the three points.

That’s not a criticism of what they did, it’s been so rife over so many years in different countries and it’s great that we stood up to them, but does it make a big enough statement? In my opinion they should have got off the pitch.

We’re talking about tackling racism with zero tolerance and we’ve spent so many years since the time I was playing as a young kid at West Ham and how bad it was then. It was a cultural thing back then and we’ve done so well, the FA, the Premier League and the clubs, to get to a stage where it’s nowhere near as prevalent as it was back in my time.

When I was growing up at West Ham, racism was rife in England. As a young kid, I experienced it and it was quite harrowing. I just got on with it and moved forward but with what we saw in Bulgaria, I think walking off would have made a real statement.

Racism is not going away, whether if that’s in football or in society. We can do what we can to try and not let it rear its ugly head but it’s always there.

All we’ve seen from UEFA is they punish people with a £50,000 fine if that. That’s not doing enough. It might just be a minority doing this but unfortunately the majority have got to be punished alongside them and UEFA need to be banning these teams from tournaments.

You can’t just fine people, give them a slap on the wrists and tell them not to do it again because it doesn’t work. It will just keep happening.

I was listening to Southgate speak afterwards and he was talking about the three strikes and you’re out but we’re meant to be talking about zero tolerance. If you hear it, get off the pitch. Don’t come back on so you can hear it again.

It’s like saying I’m going to punch someone in the face twice before they’re allowed to retaliate.

If we’re talking about a zero-tolerance approach to racism, it’s not about strike one or strike two. As soon as you hear it, just get out, walk off the pitch. Don’t get abused again and then again in the second half. That’s not the way to look at it.

If I was captain I’d have taken them off. Once I had seen the level of the abuse and the noise, I would have taken them off straight away. I wouldn’t have followed any protocol. Young people like Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings, who was making his debut, should not have to be subjected to that sort of thing.

Not just once, not twice, or even three times. It was all game. I would not have allowed my players to be subjected to that, not even once. As soon as I heard it, I would have had them off the pitch.

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