Jordan Henderson, loved ‘round these parts for a great many positive attributes, has never been someone to rock the boat in interviews or to the press. That steadiness is part of what makes him a good Liverpool captain, but it’s also lead to some gentle ribbing at his very predictable answers.
Every post-match interview will mention the team ‘giving 100%’ and ‘playing for the shirt.’ He’s extremely respectful of and diplomatic about his opponents.
That Hendo took a backseat on Monday following the disgusting, embarrassing, sickening racist chants by the Bulgarian supporters against English players. After the match, the Bulgarian manager, Krasimir Balakov, decided to claim ignorance as to what happened and throw in some whataboutism for good measure.
“I personally did not hear the chanting that you are most probably referring to. I saw that the referee stopped the game,” Balakov said after the game.
In fact, the game was stopped twice by referee Ivan Bebek, with a warning broadcasted over the PA system, helpfully in both English and Bulgarian, after English manager Gareth Southgate complained about the chanting of the crowd.
Balakov contined: ”But I also have to say that the unacceptable behaviour was not only on behalf of the Bulgaria fans but also the English fans, who were whistling and shouting during the Bulgarian national anthem.
”During the second half they used words against our fans, which I find unacceptable.”
Well. That’s certainly one way to handle it. I guess throwing up Nazi salutes is the same thing as whistling during another country’s national anthem. I can see how those two things are worthy of being put in the same category.
But there’s more! Ivelin Popov, the Bulgarian captain, was praised after the game by Marcus Rashford, among others, for speaking to the fans through a gate at halftime and trying to stop the racist chanting. According to Balakov, though, that’s...uhh...totally not what Popov was doing, actually.
“I have no idea about this. If our captain spoke to the fans it is probably because they were unhappy about the way in which the team were performing,” he added.
”The whole topic in the build-up to the game – the fans are emotional. You want me to say this and I have to say this, if something happened I’m sure it really was a small group of people who really were out of their minds because this is unacceptable… if it happened, of course.”
Oh, of course.
Henderson, who spoke with Balakov during one of the breaks in play, refuted the manager’s version of events, pointing out that he himself filled Balakov in on what was happening at the time. He was then clear that Balakov owed the England players who were abused a direct apology.
“I had a few words with the manager. It wasn’t acceptable – something needs to be done,” Henderson told Sky Sports News.
”He needs to apologise now, really, on behalf of the team and the fans. He knows what was going on. He was asking me what the problem was. When I told him he knew what was going on, it was baffling how he didn’t, really. Hopefully he looks back and apologises because anyone watching that game would be disgusted really.”
Henderson also took to Twitter to vent his frustration at the treatment of his fellow teammates during the game.
Absolutely disgusted to have witnessed the behaviour of some of the crowd tonight but so proud of every single one of our players and staff. We stand together. Thanks to all of our travelling fans for your support pic.twitter.com/e8pchzO6tT— Jordan Henderson (@JHenderson) October 14, 2019
Rashford opened up the scoring in the game and former Red Raheem Sterling scored a brace. If I could make every one of those fans eat those goals, I would.
The referees followed protocols during the match, and Southgate made it clear afterwards that all the players wanted to finish it despite the ugliness on display. It remains to be seen if UEFA will show a backbone and give Bulgaria a significant consequence, considering this will be their third racist offense since June.
If you want some free medical advice, though, I suggest you don’t hold your breath.