SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgarian authorities said they were investigating photographs that appear to show a child making a Nazi salute and another with a swastika on his chest at the country’s soccer cup final.
The images of the shirtless young boys standing on the athletics track at the national stadium on Wednesday, in front of the crowd of supporters of the Levski Sofia team, caused a public outcry after being posted online.
One has his arm raised in what looks like a Nazi salute, and the other a swastika scrawled on his bare chest. Both have slogans on their torsoes such as “Levski hooligan” and “ACAB” (All Cops Are Bastards). They appear to be well under 10 years old.
“We see Nazi greetings, which are a worrying fact for us,” said Stefka Ilieva, an inspector at the State Agency for Child Protection.
She said the agency wanted to establish the boys’ identities, adding that if they had been unaccompanied at the evening match their parents could be fined up to 500 levs ($300).
Children under 14 have to be accompanied at events that take place later than 8 p.m., according to the Child Protection Act.
The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria strongly condemned the incident.
“It is unacceptable that young children should be encouraged to exhibit such behavior,” it said.
In 2012, Levski were fined 30,000 euros ($36,000) by European soccer governing body UEFA for racist behavior by fans during a Europa League match.
The Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) fined the club 37,500 levs after supporters displayed a banner showing a swastika and another marking Adolf Hitler’s birthday during a game in 2013.
It was fined again in 2014 after fans displayed banners reading “Death to refugees” and “Blood will be shed for our land”.
Some 40 Levski fans were detained after a policewoman was injured by a small explosion during a match last month. [L8N1RV6LP]
The BFU has been accused of being too lenient in handing Levski merely symbolic fines for repeated racist behavior.
Neither Levski nor the BFU were immediately available for comment on Friday on the images of the boys at the cup final.
Levski were beaten by city rivals Slavia on penalties.
Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; editing by Andrew Roche