Violent clashes took place on Thursday in Sofia between Bulgarian supporters and the police on the sidelines of the Bulgaria-Hungary meeting counting for the Euro 2024 qualifications, organized behind closed doors and placed under high security.
Members of the police and supporters were injured, the Bulgarian Ministry of Internal Affairs said in a statement, also reporting arrests without giving further details. An AFP journalist saw several men with bloody faces, some of whom had to be evacuated by ambulance. Police used water cannons to disperse the crowd of around 2,000 people.
In an unusual union, supporters from all over the country came to demand the resignation of the President of the Federation Borislav Mihaylov, who has been in charge for 18 years. Firecrackers, bottles and even stones: protesters threw projectiles and set fire to a police vehicle, rare incidents in this Balkan country. The authorities, who appealed for calm, had warned of “a high risk of disturbances to public order inside and outside the stadium”. Hence the choice to hold the match without an audience. Scheduled for Plovdiv, in central Bulgaria, it was transferred at the last minute to the capital Sofia.
Anger among football fans continues to mount over the poor results of the national team, which has failed to qualify for any major competition and has changed coach 18 times over the past two decades. The last international tournament played by Bulgaria dates back to Euro 2004 in Portugal. The controversial president of the Bulgarian Football Federation (BFU), 60, resigned in 2019 before reversing his decision. This former goalkeeper was finally re-elected in 2021, despite a record marred by suspicions of match-fixing and marked by a scandal of racist insults during a match against England in 2019. With only two points, Bulgaria occupies the last place in their Euro 2024 qualifying group.