Fans break distancing rules at Bulgarian Cup final

SOFIA (Reuters) - Thousands of fans broke social distancing rules in the stands as Lokomotiv Plovdiv beat CSKA Sofia 5-3 on penalties on Wednesday to win the Bulgarian Cup for a second consecutive year.

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The Balkan country’s government allowed 12,000 spectators at the game despite multiple COVID-19 rules violations since the domestic league resumed on June 5 after an almost three-month break due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov ordered Health Minister Kiril Ananiev to attend the match at the Vasil Levski national stadium to monitor whether spectators were complying with the health measures.

The fans, however, again demonstrated little respect for the requirements of the authorities, with CSKA supporters standing close together and shouting abuse at Borissov during the 80th Cup final.

The government also said spectators should wear face masks with stewards offering everyone entering the stadium a free one. But only a very small number of fans used the protective cover-up.

Referee Georgi Kabakov interrupted the game for a few minutes in the second half after CSKA fans set off flares and threw smoke bombs.

Fans of Lokomotiv, last season’s Cup winners, also mocked the “Black Lives Matter” movement, displaying a banner reading “White Lives Matter”.

Last week a plane carrying a banner declaring “White Lives Matter Burnley” flew over Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium at the start of the Premier League game against Burnley.

Bulgaria’s Sports Minister Krasen Kralev had warned that violations during the Cup final could lead to “more drastic measures”.

There were few chances in the game with both sides struggling to break down disciplined defences.

CSKA, seeking their first trophy since 2016, finished with 10 men after midfielder Kristiyan Malinov was sent off for a second bookable offence with five minutes remaining.

The clash ended goalless after extra time and Lokomotiv, who have clinched Europa League qualifying berth, held their nerve in the penalty shootout.

The Plovdiv-based side converted all their spot-kicks with substitute keeper Ilko Pirgov saving the penalty of CSKA’s Gambian striker Ali Sowe.

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov, editing by Ed Osmond