Megan Rapinoe Says Football 'Failing' Players over Racism, Talks Bulgaria Fine

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 8, 2019

CARY, NC - OCTOBER 20: Megan Rapinoe #15 of Reign FC plays the ball during a game between Reign FC and North Carolina Courage at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park on October 20, 2019 in Cary, North Carolina. (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images).
Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images

United States women's national team star Megan Rapinoe has hit out at football's authorities and clubs for letting players down when it comes to racism.

Most recently, Bulgaria were fined €75,000 (£65,000) by UEFA after fans directed racist abuse at England players in October.

When asked about the punishment in an interview published Thursday, Rapinoe told BBC Radio One's Newsbeat (h/t Goal's Daniel Lewis):

"We're not going to accept this. This is not something that's going to be in our game.

"So I feel like all of the clubs and the presidents and fan groups and everyone, you know, frankly are failing these players.

"If you're ever caught doing anything racist you should be banned for life. That's just the end of it. I mean £65,000 is an absolute joke.

"For me I'm just like, make it super extreme so it's damaging to the team, to the federation, so it's damaging financially."

Monkey chants and racist jeers were aimed at Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Tyrone Mings in England's 6-0 UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying win in Sofia in October, while some in the crowd also made Nazi salutes.

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The match had to be halted twice by the referee as officials enacted UEFA's protocol, but the Three Lions wanted to play on:

Seven fans were arrested, with four of them hit with fines and two-year bans from attending sporting events.

The match was already being played in a partially closed Vasil Levski National Stadium, as Bulgaria had previously been sanctioned by UEFA for other racist incidents in fixtures against Kosovo and the Czech Republic.

As well as their fine, the Bulgarian national team will also have to play a match behind closed doors, with another such game suspended for two years.

The Mirror's Darren Lewis was among many to take issue with the punishment handed down by UEFA:

Rapinoe, who won the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot at the FIFA Women's World Cup for scoring six goals on the way to the USA's fourth title, has made headlines this year for campaigning against discrimination and for equal pay.

After she was named FIFA's The Best Women's Player in September, she called on footballers to use their platform to tackle such issues:

In her speech, the 34-year-old hailed Manchester City star Sterling for speaking out against racism.

She reiterated her desire for others to follow in his footsteps, per Lewis: "I need all the players on Raheem's team, all the players in the Premier League and in the leagues abroad to make it their problem because it really is everybody's issue."

Chelsea banned a supporter for life for racially abusing Sterling in City's visit to Stamford Bridge in December.

This season, England's clash with Bulgaria is just one of numerous high-profile incidents of racism in football at club or international level.

Manchester United stars Rashford and Paul Pogba, as well as Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham, have been abused on social media after missing penalties for their sides.

Blues defender Kurt Zouma was racially abused for scoring an own goal, while in Serie A, Romelu Lukaku, Franck Kessie and Mario Balotelli have been subjected to racist abuse from crowds.

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