If you asked us what we thought would be the most frightening part of our trip, we’d probably have said meeting a 🦁 on the road, not a football match…

Arriving in Sofia we realised that our trip coincided with the

Bulgaria-England Euro Qualifier match. Seats in the England section being above our budget, we were excited to find €10 tickets to sit with the locals.

Just before the match we noticed our tickets had disappeared. Too late to retrace our steps we bit the loss and tried to buy more. At the booth the same man who’d happily sold us tickets 8 hours earlier now said they were strictly not to be sold to the English. Saying we were Scots living in Sofia didn’t work as he said we needed to speak Bulgarian 🤨. When we bought the tickets I’d taken a blurred photo of them, so we decided to try our luck at the gates.

Getting up to the stadium was another challenge. Police barricaded the main road filtering out any English trying to walk to the Bulgarian side. Despite not saying a word we were picked out and refused entry. Luckily the Scottish card worked this time and we made it through.

At the security checkpoint James was dragged out by his hood because the police found a water bottle, something that we hadn’t even considered would be forbidden. Walking away we saw groups of people throwing glass bottles at VIP cars entering the stadium.

Attempting to enter the stadium at the other side was more successful, and the scanner even accepted the blurred barcode on the photo I’d taken!

Sitting down in our seats we instantly felt more uncomfortable. There was a heavy police presence and the seats were split into small sections, each separated by barbed fences. We quickly agreed to not speak English and to do as the locals do, starting with booing the national anthem.

As the match started things quickly escalated. Hoods went up, chanting began, Nazi salutes came out, and monkey noises were performed whenever a black player touched the ball.

A pretty grim experience and one that we don’t want to repeat. The high point of the experience was probably the stale half-time popcorn.

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