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Bulgaria head coach resigns amid racism row

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Bulgaria coach

Bulgaria head coach Krasimir Balakov has resigned amid the fallout of the racist abuse suffered by England’s players during their Euro 2020 qualifier match on Monday night.

England’s 6-0 European Qualifier win in Sofia was overshadowed by racist chanting and Nazi salutes, with the game stopped twice during the first half as players considered walking off the pitch in protest of the abuse.

In an interview with Sky Sports News after the game, Balakov said he did not hear monkey chants from the stands, and would only apologise to England’s players if UEFA proved that there had been discriminatory abuse.

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On Friday, the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) confirmed Balakov had stepped down, citing the “unsatisfactory” performance of the Bulgaria team in recent months, along with BFU president Borislav Mihaylov and the entire Executive Committee.

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov asked Mihaylov to step down on Tuesday in the aftermath of the racist abuse, but this was initially turned down by the BFU over fears of political interference, which is not allowed by FIFA.

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Step one of UEFA’s anti-racism protocol was activated just before the half-hour mark of Monday’s game, with the referee asking for a public address announcement to be made ordering the abuse to stop. However, it continued throughout.

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Head coach Balakov said on Monday night: “I was concentrated on the game.

Meanwhile, Mihaylov said on Friday:

“My decision to step down has nothing to do with prime minister Borissov asking for my resignation the day after the game vs England. My patience is over.

“We did what we had to do regarding the security during the game v England. Bulgaria is not a racist country.”

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UFC 251: Kamaru Usman beats Jorge Masvidal to retain welterweight title

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Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman ground out a decision victory over Jorge Masvidal to keep his belt, and Alexander Volkanovski retained his featherweight title with a split decision victory over Max Holloway at the UFC 251 event in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

With Masvidal taking the title fight on six days’ notice after Gilbert Burns was forced to pull out after testing positive for the new coronavirus, Usman used his superior wrestling and clinch work to wear down the challenger over five rounds.

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The 33-year-old ripped vicious hooks to the body against the cage and smothered Masvidal on the ground, sapping the challenger’s energy en route to a convincing win.

“All these guys, they’re preparing for one guy, and that’s me, at the top of the mountain, and I had to make a mental shift,” Usman said after the fight. Masvidal “is tough, and he showed it out there.”

In the co-main event Australian Volkanovski, who won the featherweight belt from Holloway via unanimous decision in December 2019, found himself behind early on, after he was knocked down at the end of each of the first two rounds.

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The former semi-professional rugby league player dug deep, relying more on his wrestling and doing just enough over the final three rounds to edge out the Hawaiian on the judges’ scorecards and remain unbeaten in the UFC.

In the card’s other title fight, Russia’s Petr Jan scored a brutal technical knockout over Brazilian Jose Aldo to claim the bantamweight title left vacant by the retirement of previous champion Henry Cejudo in May.

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Dropping down a weight class, former featherweight champ Aldo held his own but wilted in the fourth round, and the Russian dominated him with ground strikes in the fifth until the referee waved the fight off, declaring Yan the winner by TKO.

Reuters

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Why Okocha never won Ballon d’Or – Habib Beye

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Former Newcastle United and Aston Villa right-back, Habib Beye, said ex-Nigerian international, Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, would have won one or two Ballons d’Or has did his former teammate, Ronaldinho.

The French-born Beye was an academy player at Paris Saint-Germain [PSG] when Okocha, alongside Barcelona legend Ronaldinho, played at the club before the Super Eagles legend made a move to the Premier League.

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Okocha played for Bolton Wanderers, Qatar SC and Hull City at the Premier League

Ronaldinho, on the other hand, swapped Paris Saint-Germain [PSG] for Barcelona where he won the FIFA World Player of the Year awards twice in 2004 and 2005 and was a Ballon d’Or winner in 2005.

Now, Beye, a retired Senegal international is of the opinion that Okocha did not win the Ballon d’Or because he did not play for a top club with the exception of PSG.

“Okocha is one of the great players who have not been able to play in big clubs,” Beye said on Team sur Canal Plus via afriquesports.net.

“Ronaldinho could have had two to four Ballons d’or. Jay Jay Okocha is such a talent and could have been too.”

Okocha was a leading figure for Nigeria at the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups and played in two Africa Cup of Nations finals in 1994 and 2000.

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Furios Lampard speaks after Chelsea defeat to Sheffield United

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Frank Lampard

A furious Frank Lampard questioned the mentality of his players after Chelsea’s Champions League hopes suffered a blow in a 3-0 defeat at Sheffield United.

Chelsea produced arguably their worst performance of the season and missed a chance to tighten their grip on third place after another defensive horror show at Bramall Lane.

Lampard was unhappy with the attitude of the team and admitted Chelsea were beaten in every aspect of the game.

“They were better than us physically, better than us in the mind, better than us with the ball, so you lose the game,” said Lampard.

“They were stronger than us mentally, you could feel that, without the crowd here at the moment you hear every voice and all I could hear was Sheffield United voices.

“The players knew all the information that they needed. But if you are going to play with a slow, low technical level, and if we are not going to compete like we should do for the first 45 minutes in particular, then it does not matter how you set up tactically.”

Chelsea could drop out of the top four by Monday after Leicester and Manchester United play their games in hand.

More defensive mistakes cost Chelsea and Lampard said:

“Disappointing. I have got to be careful not to overanalyse this one, because that is what you do all season.

“You overanalyse and review. What we have to do now is put that game to bed. The only thing that matters now is that we fight for top four. We are still in that race.

“We have to put this game away very quickly but I learned a lot about the players today, and I will not forget that. You tend to learn more in the tough moments, in tough games.

“That is for me to deal with as we go forward.”

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