Poland – 19th in Europe. The previous season the country had its weakest ever champion, so any winner would have been better after that, theoretically. Objectively, Polish clubs were traditionally made in such a way, so not really strong was able to emerge: they were fairly equal and momentary form more or less ruled. On top of everything, the country entered a bitter decade of social unrest, demanding political and economic changes – no doubt, football was also affected. But no matter, the game was played and no championship was interrupted.

The Second Division had familiar winners: in Group 1 Piast (Gliwice) and Pogon (Szczecin) competed for the first place.

Pogon won with 41 points. High scoring was their trade mark this season.

Group 2 was a bit more competitive, but here too a duel formed – between Huthink (Krakow) and Gwardia (Warszawa).

With 42 points Gwardia clinched victory by a point, strongly depending on their excellent defense.

The newly promoted teams were very familiar with top league football – they were just returning to 1st Division football.

The First Division offered its usual tough battle between similar teams, which at the end made for unpredictable championship – at least on the top of the league. At the bottom Odra (Opole) was hopeless outsiders, finishing 16th with measly 18 points. Three teams fought for escaping the other relegation place – Zawisza (Bydgoszcz) lost the race and ended 15th with 23 points.

Up the table three clubs were noticeably in crisis: Ruch (Chorzow) – 7th, Stal (Mielec) – 9th, and Gornik (Zabrze) – 12th. The leading clubs of the 1970s were down now.

Gornik’s photo is quite a strong example of typical Polish troubles: it was made just before the start of the ‘good-bye’ match of Jerzy Gorgon – in Switzerland against Sankt Gallen, just after he was sold to the Swiss club. With Gorgon gone, Gornik became just as the most Polish teams – with one or none star in the squad.

Motor (Lublin) – a typical example of most Polish teams. They finished 10th this year – former leaders, like Gornik, were just like Motor by now.

And may be because of that there was fierce competition for the title – between 6 clubs, which left the rest far behind. Four of them finished with equal points – 36 each. Head-to-head results, not goal-difference, decided positions in such occasions, so Baltyk (Gdynia) took the 6th place – 6 points ahead of Ruch, 7th. Yet, Baltyk was more similar to Motor than to other favourites. But none was really outstanding as a team, so momentary form was the prime factor.

Legia (Warszawa) ended 5th.

From left to right: Mirosław Okoński, Janusz Baran, Waldemar Tumiński, Ryszard Milewski, Krzysztof Adamczyk, Henryk Miłoszewicz, Marek Kusto, Paweł Janas, Stefan Majewski, Jacek Kazimierski, Adam Topolski.

Compared to Gornik – a strong squad… some well established stars, some up and coming, some very promising. Kusto, Okonski, Janas, Majewski should have been able to make the difference even without further help – but they were 5th at the ned.

Slask (Wroclaw), similar to Legia and mo long ago looking very promising, finished 4th.

Szombierki (Bytom), the surprise champions of the previous year, finished 3rd – well, bronze after gold suggests a strong team. Szombierki was not and running on enthusiasm went only that far – to come, however minimally, ahead of Legia, Slask, and Baltyk.

Wysla (Krakow), arguably the most consistent team at the time, finished 2nd with 37 points.

First row from left: K. Gazda, L. Lipka, A. Iwan, A. Nawałka, K. Kmiecik, J. Krupiński, J. Jałocha, A. Targosz, H. Szymanowski.

Middle row: Z. Szczotka (masseur), L. Franczak (assistant coach), K. Budka, P. Skrobowski, M. Motyka, J. Adamczyk, R. Gaszyński, S. Gonet (coach), M. Holocher, Z. Płaszewski, M. Wróbel, J. Kowalik, Z. Kapka, W. Lendzion (assistant coach).

Looking at the names, this should have been the number one team – and they came close, but lost the title by a point. So, it was not truly superior squad… measly 1 one point ahead of Szombierki.

Two points better than Wisla finished a club so far winning nothing.

Widzew (Lodz) won their very trophy ever with 39 points – 14 wins, 11 ties, 5 losses, 39-25 goal-difference. Today is easy to say they ‘but of course, they had Boniek’. True, they had him and he was may be the biggest star in Poland at the moment, but he was not yet the world-class star – not until 1982. Widzew depended on tough defense – they had the best defensive record this season in the league, but their striker power was weak – 5 clubs, including 11th placed Arka (Gdynia) outscored the champions. Widzew simly squirreled points, careful not to lose matches, and at the end of the championship they were rather lucky to finish ahead of the pack of 6 fairly unexceptional rivals. But win they did and it was fantastic occasion.

Widzew (Lodz) was found in 1910, although there is a bit of uncertainly – some sources give 1922 as their first year, which could be the year of making a football team and 1910 referring to the foundation of all-sports club. So far, Widzew had humble existence – not only they never won anything, but they were somewhat trailing in the shadow of their local rivals LKS (Lodz). But after 1975 things eventually changed: LKS, famed for Jan Tomaszewski, was fading, Widzew, having the rapidly climbing up to stardom youngster Boniek, moved also up. But Boniek was just one player, surrounded by rather insignificant teammates. And the new champions were still insignificant squad, except they got two important additions in the summer of 1980: the well remembered abroad Wladislaw Zmuda, perhaps the top central-defender at the moment, arrived from Slask (Wroclaw) and already included in the Polish national team talented goalkeeper Jozef Mlynarczyk came from Odra (Opole). Suddenly Widzew came at par with the typical strong Polish teams: a few stars made the difference and Widzew’s as well dispersed group – Mlynarczyk between the goal-pots, Zmuda in front, commanding the defense, Zbigniew Boniek in midfield, and bright young talent, soon to be a major star – Wlodzimierz Smolarek in attack. The skeleton was strong enough to compete with similar teams and eventually won the league. Apparently, 4 strong players were enough – first-time winners usually become legendary teams for their fans and are remembered forever: it is hardly the case with this team – the stars are remembered, but not the whole team. Well, it was great, locally, and Widzew got the edge from LKS – they also won one Polish championship, but long time ago, so currently Widzew was on top. Good, but only the next season could tell if they were not only one-time wonder.

Sweden the Cup

Whatever the championship was, the Cup tournament brought everything to what was associated with Swedish football: equal teams, no favourites. Kalmar FF and IF Elfsborg reached the final, the teams almost relegated this year. The final was played in Stockholm in front of only 2.245 – the lowest attendance in recent years and perhaps one of the lowest ever gathering at the cup final. Kalmar FF, which ended bellow its opponent in the league, simply destroyed Elfsborg – 4-0.

A heroic effort, reaching the final, but IF Elsfborg was hardly a winning team. But all depends on size – for a club like Elfsborg playing at the Cup final and keeping a place in the top division amounted to excellent season.

Of course, winning the Cup was a success – and Kalmar FF was rarely successful. In fact, this was their very real success – the first trophy they ever won. The heroes were largely unknown and remained unknown – save for Benno Magnusson, now in his last playing years. At the end of the year Kalmar FF was happy again, after winning the promotion/relegation play-off against IFK Eskilstuna and preserving first division place.


Sweden, 18th by UEFA ranking, was changing the format for the next championship, so the 1981 season was a bit strange. The First Division was to be reduced next year from 14 to 12 teams, so promotion and relegation was affected. The general records are a bit shy today, but it looks like the winners of Second Division went to play-offs against the 11th and the 12th from First Division.

IFK Eskilstuna won 2nd Division Norra (North) and BK Hacken won 2nd Division Södra (South) – both winners were far above the others in their groups. But that was all either club could brag about, for neither got promoted.

The 1st Division championship was perhaps a bit unusual by Swedish standards – normally, it was a championship of fairly equal teams, so no big gaps occurred, but this year the league – at least at the end – was practically divided into 3 quite distinct groups of teams, topped by solitary leader. Two outsiders settled at the very bottom, one of them may be a surprise.

Djurgardens IF finished last with 16 points. Since Sweden had no really big dominating clubs, practically no club was safe from, but Djurgardens was one of the most stable and hardly one to go down. But they did.

IFK Sundsvall finished 13th with 18 points – now, this was a club one would expect to go down.

Above the doomed 6 clubs struggled to avoid play-off zone – Hammarby topped this group and finished 7th with 25 points. Atvidabergs FF breathed easier at the end, clinching the safe 10th place on better goal-difference. IF Elfsborg was 11th and Kalmar FF was 12th and in danger – if there were play-offs, both teams managed to beat their respective 2nd division opponent, so both teams remained in the league, but there was more to hear of these lowly teams in typical Swedish manner.

The next group was rather loose and there were additional gaps between the teams, but those were the stronger teams this season, having nothing to do with fears of relegation, but competing for top places and hoping for UEFA Cup spots. Malmo FF apparently finished its great winning cycle, taking all the 1970s – they ended 5th with 27 points and ahead of Örgryte IS only on better goal-difference. However, it looked like just a season of uncertainty, not a blooming crisis: the new team was strong.

As for Örgryte IS, they should be singled as an example of typical Swedish club – among largely unknown outside Sweden players, there was often a famous name: Bjorn Nordqvist here. 39 years old, but not ready to retire at all.

IF Brage finished 4th with 30 points, missing European spot by little. A curious picture for the 80s: players with spectacles practically disappeared after mid-1970s, so it is even odd to see two of the rare kind here: Rolf-Ola Nilsson and Goran Lindberg.

With 32 points IFK Norrköping secured 3th place – no higher aims, but bronze gave them a UEFA Cup spot.

IFK Göteborg was 2nd with 36 points, perhaps the single Swedish club on gradual ascend in the last few years. Sven-Goran Eriksson steered his squad well, it was getting stronger and had a number of players, who will be famous soon – Glenn Hysen, for example – but the team was not yet at its peak. They were the top-scoring team this year, but belonged more to the group of solid teams – yes, they outrun IFK Norrköping by 4 points, but in the same time were not a real title contender. Still not ready.

So at the end Östers IF won the title rather easily – 19 wins, 2 ties, 5 losses, 57-20 goal-difference, 40 points – 4 more than IFK Göteborg, second-best attack and best defense in the league. Second title in a row and 4th in total. The best period in the history of the club – champions of 1978, 1980, and 1981. Good work of their coach Bo Johansson, no doubt, but perhaps the aging Hungarian Vilmos Warszegi laid the foundations for the years of success: he coached the team from 1967 to 1973, but was still around as an assistant-coach. As for the squad, it was remarkably modest – yes, Peter Utriainen played for the national team of his home country, Finland, and Teitur Thordarsson was a staple for Iceland, but both represented the typical foreigners playing in Sweden: may be solid, but hardly famous. The only famous player the champions had is famous today, but not back then – Thomas Ravelli. He was only 22 years old at the time and just made his debut for the national team of Sweden, but already was three-times champion of the country. However, he would be a familiar name across the world many, many years later.

Greece the Cup

The Cup final opposed Olympiakos to PAOK, a last chance for Thessaloniki to win a trophy this year. It was not to be – Olympiakos prevailed 3-1, perhaps the most memorable part of the final was the goals Damanakis (PAOK) scored: first in his own net, thus giving the lead to Olympiakos, and then the only goal for PAOK when everything was practically over.

PAOK finished empty-handed, but otherwise it was not a bad season for them: their line-up for the Cup final practically spells-out the inevitable limits of the club: Bladen Fortula, Jiannis Gounaris, Kostas Iosifidis, Shalamon, Siggas, Damanakis, Panagiotis Kermanidis (69’Triantafillidis), Vasillis Georgopoulos, Neto Guerino, Jiorgos Koudas (75′ Vasilis Vasilakos), Jiorgos Kostikos. Koudas the big star, well respected foreigners Neto Guerino and Bladen Fortula, some strong players like Iosifidis, but essentially not a superior squad, mostly depending on established for years players, but in the same time, players, who already reached their peaks and well known to everybody.

As for Olympiakos – a double, which is always great, but especially from a distance, a rather routine victory. 22nd title and 17th Cup. First double since 1975. Just cold numbers. Kazimierz Gorski added two more trophies to his biography too – well done.



Greece ranked 17th at club level – seemingly, the slow improvement during the 1970s moved Greek football to the middle level of Europe. Not bad. Yet, this season was rather low-key – nothing sensational either way. Iraklis (Thessaloniki) easily won the Northern Group of Second Division, 14 points ahead of the second best, Pierikos (Katerini), and with great goal-difference – 99-22, that is +77! In the Southern Group the intrigue lasted to the end – 2 teams were above the rest and finished with equal points: Egaleo (Athens) and APS Rodos (Rodos). With 55 points, they were 8 points ahead of Diagoras (Rodos). Egaleo ended first at the final table, having better goal-difference by 3 goals, but winning the championship was nothing yet: rules stipulated a play-off for promotion in case like that and goal-difference was not a factor. The candidates met on neutral ground, in Heraclion (Crete), and in the most important match of the year APS Rodos prevailed over Egaleo 1-0. So, Iraklis and APS Rodos were promoted.

First division, then. Atromitos (Athens) was the outsider this season, finishing 18th with 21 points. Their relegation reduced Athens presence in the top league to 5 teams for the next year. Two clubs struggled to avoid the deadly 17th place – APS Korinthos escaped relegation at the end with 27 points. Earning just 26 points, Panachaiki (Patras) went down.

AO Kavala took 15th place with 29 points.

PAS Giannina was 11th, by now a solid mid-table club.

Doxa (Drama) was 9th – nothing spectacular, but for a modest club perhaps a strong season.

Panserraikos (Serres) was 8th – like Doxa, enjoying a good season. But that was pretty much the usual shuffling in the league, leaving the top to the big clubs, as ever.

Panathinaikos greatly disappointed its fans, having a weak season and finishing 5th, 3 points behind the 4th. Out of the picture, really. The rivalry between Athens and Thessaloniki was very much alive, though. Three clubs competed for silver and bronze – AEK (Athens) and PAOK and Aris from Thessaloniki.

PAOK lost the race with 42 points and ended 4th.

A point better than their city rivals, Aris collected bronze medals, and AEK clinched silver medals also by a point, finishing with 44 points and the best attack in the league, but with very leaky defense.

No real competition for the title – Olympiakos enjoyed a smooth run and won the championship with 49 points.

Without a real rival, it is difficult to evaluate the strength of this vintage. Standing from left: Nikos Sarganis, Takis Nikoloudis, Kostas Orfanos, Nikos Vamvakoulas, Marco Novoselac, Stavris Papadopoulios.

First row: Maik Galakos, Jiannis Kyrastas, ?, Takis Persias, Thomas Ahlstrom.

Naturally, a whole bunch of national team players, but hardly a memorable squad. Novoselac (Yugoslavia) and Alstrom (Sweden) were good enough for the Greek championship, but not exactly great stars – Olympiakos had stronger foreigners in the recent past. Perhaps Galakos, constantly moving between Greece and his country of birth, West Germany, symbolizes best the team of that time: one of the top players in Greece, but never able to impress in West Germany. Olympiakos won and deserved to win, but one cannot suppress the feeling that this victory was also due to the lack of real competition.


Bulgaria the Cups

1980-81 was the most confusing Bulgarian season in terms of cups tournaments – three tournaments were staged, but their import was quite messy. On top of everything was the tournament played last: the ‘1300 years Bulgaria’ Cup. The Communist government organized enormous ‘celebration’ of rather incorrect 13 centuries of the existence of the country. Football had to play its part in it too, hence, the new cup. But it was designed as a kind of culmination: the 4 teams of the final stage of newly organized Cup of Bulgaria were moved to play against 4 foreign teams: Dinamo (Minsk, USSR), Arges (Pitesti, Romania), Admira-Wacker (Vienna, Austria), and Sporting (Lisbon, Portugal).

Levski-Spartak (Sofia) and Sporting reached the final and the Portuguese won 3-2. But this cup was one-time affair and no matter what the state thought, left practically no memory of itself – it was lost in the long train of events and to the football fans at home, let alone abroad, it was just one of the silly summer tournaments, dedicated mostly to shaping squads for the upcoming season.

The Cup of Bulgaria was another matter: Bulgaria was the only European country without a national cup – instead, there was the Soviet Army Cup, a gift from USSR, awarded by the Soviet Military Attache. UEFA did not like that, for such tournament did not abide to the rules, and was pressuring the Bulgarian Federation to organize a real national cup or be banned from the Cup Winners Cup. But it was not easy to either abolish, or rename the Soviet Army Cup for political reasons: the ever watchful and touchy Soviets would see such thing as a hostile political act. Between the rock and the hard place, Bulgaria maneuvered in a peculiar way, hoping to satisfy both sides – the Soviet Army Cup remained and its winner was still to represent the country in the Cup Winners Cup, but a brand new Cup of Bulgaria was created this year. At the end both tournaments were played until the fall of Communism, but inevitably one was to be reduced to silly unimportant tournament. It was clear from the beginning, bringing some uncertainty in the clubs – which tournament was really important? Well, must be the one giving to the winner a place in the Cup Winners Cup. For the moment, it was still the Soviet Army Cup. It was not only politics – one big problem was continuation: the Soviet Army Cup had long history as the country’s cup. Records were set. Suddenly there was another cup, having no history at all, but seemingly going to be most important – but it was not giving a place in the Cup Winners Cup yet. For some years the confusion will remain and no one will be really certain which tournament was more important.

The new Cup of Bulgaria.

Anyhow, the inaugural tournament was staged, organized somewhat differently from the usual cup format – instead of semi-finals and a final, there was round-robin final tournament. Levski-Spartak (Sofia), Slavia (Sofia), Trakia (Plovdiv), and CSKA ‘Septemvriisko zname’ (Sofia) reached the final stage, where CSKA won all of their 3 matches and became the first winner of Cup of Bulgaria.

CSKA – the first winners of Cup of Bulgaria. Such pictures are supposed to be historic, but there was little joy and this victory remains as a minor one for CSKA: since the tournament was unimportant for any practical reason, it hardly counted for a double. It stays mostly as ‘also won this year’. The fact that the weird ‘1300 years Bulgaria’ cup was somewhat the real culmination of the Cup of Bulgaria confused the matter – CSKA won this one, but there was still another tournament: which one was the peak of everything?

The Soviet Army Cup was played as ever before, but the rules were slightly different this season, giving some advantage to lower division clubs. May be some clubs were uncertain about the importance of this tournament already, but it whatever the reasons, it was highly unusual tournament: half of the teams at the 1/8 finals were from Second Division. Both Bulgarians grands were eliminated at this stage by second division teams: CSKA lost to ZhSK Spartak (Varna)_1-2 and Levski-Spartak to Minyor (Bukhovo) 0-2. ZhSK Spartak reached the semi-finals and was eliminated only there by Pirin (Blagoevgrad) 0-2. In the other semi-final Trakia eliminated Belasitza (Petrich) 6-0. It was all strange – a second division team, unable even to aim for promotion, reached the semi-finals and was eliminated by a team going to relegation. In the other semi-final lowly first division debutant Belasitza was eliminated at last. The finalists were rather confusing pair: on one hand, these were the clubs with the best youth systems at the moment, so it was a clash of the most talented youngsters of the country. On the other hand, Trakia was not a real title contender in the championship and Pirin finished last and was relegated. The Cup final was very important, of course – Trakia won the cup only once, long time ago, and even played at the final for the last time in the distant past – in 1964, when it was still playing under the original club’s name: Botev. Pirin never won a trophy, this was its first chance and in any case – playing at the cup final was the highest ever achievement of the club. Weirdly, Pirin had a season combining the lowest – relegation – with the highest – possibly winning a trophy and going to play in Europe. The final was decided 2 minutes before half-time, when Mitko Argirov scored the only goal of the match and Trakia won the cup.

Then the moment UEFA had problem with came: Valery Dzanagov, the Soviet Military Attache in Bulgaria, awarded Trakia’s captain Petar Zekhtinsky, the ‘Plovdiv’s Zico’, with the Soviet Army Cup and Trakia was going to play in the Cup Winners Cup in the fall of 1981.

The boys made their happy round of triumph when Pirin sulked somewhere in the dressing room.

The photo of the winners appeared in ‘Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship’ magazine, as every year before – UEFA perhaps was not aware of this, but it was also part of the international problem: the Soviet Army Cup was always presented as a ‘true’ testimony of Soviet big-brother friendship, hence, the coverage in the magazine dedicated just to that. But never mind – these were the winners, the most talented young team in Bulgaria, perhaps coming to maturity at last, for they won their first trophy. Crouching from left: Georgy Andreev, Ivan Mikhaylov, Mitko Argirov, Petar Dimitrov, Krassimir Stoyanov, Kosta Tanev.

Middle row: Marin Bakalov, Kostadin Kostadinov, Petar Zekhtinsky, Georgy Slavkov, Roumen Yurukov, Krassimir Manolov.

Top row: Dinko Dermendzhiev – coach, Dimitar Vichev, Trifon Pachev, Blagoya Blangev, Atanas Marinov, Slavcho Khorozov, Kiril Peychev, Ivan Glukhchev – assistant-coach.

Second cup for Trakia and first for this talented generation, making sure that they were ready for a great era of success. Everybody was certain of that now, so let’s take one more look of the winners at the moment of their triumph:

Just winning the Cup and ready for more? How little everybody knew… this was the last trophy the club won to this very day.


Bulgaria I Division

The 1980-81 Bulgarian championship was strange – CSKA was a big European news this season: they reached the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup, eliminating Liverpool on the way. Yet, the season was not exceptional at home. It depends on the point of view one adopts: in the final table 5 points divide the last from the 5th, meaning that 12 of the 16 league members were preoccupied only with survival. If one prefers positive approach, then First Division was actually very competitive, having a lively season of equally tough teams and no real favourites. The truth is perhaps different: 2-points-for-a-win system gives a maximum of 60 points in a 16-team league. Most teams, including 3 of the top 4, finished in the medium range of 30 points, give or take a point or two. In reality a bulk of not exceptional teams geared themselves for a maximum take at home and whatever happened away. No ambition, no taking risks, no really classy teams, for after all even the champions managed just 67% of the maximum – and that is speaking for the team beating Liverpool. Winning at home was the key for survival and no wonder the last in the league was there only because they tied too many matches. That is not to say there were no ups and downs, improvements or declines – no matter the whole situation, there always are such particulars.

In a league of 50%-ers every lost point was perilous – Pirin (Blagoevgrad) finished last with 26 points.

Standing from left: Ivan Mularov, Yordan Kostov, Petar Tzvetkov, Boris Nikolov, Metody Stoyanov, Atanas Atanassov.

First row: Zhoro Vanchev, Krassimir Bezinsky, Yordan Murlev, Christo Denchev, Kostadon Yanchev.

The club paid heavy price for its make, the same Lokomotiv (Plovdiv) suffered of: the team was composed of old veterans and talented, but inexperienced youngsters, without a middle generation. B. Nikolov and M. Stoyanov were already nearing their careers. So was the goalkeeper Christo Christov, not in the picture, who was almost 38 and still a national team regular – curiously, he debuted for Bulgaria only two years earlier. The rest were bright and highly talented boys – three of the pictured above were soon to become among those defining the 1980s of Bulgarian football – Denchev, Bezinsky, and Yanchev. But they were still barely 20-years old and most importantly, Pirin was able to keep such highly promising players: the trio – and not only they – were soon to be snatch by CSKA and Levski-Spartak. Unbalanced squad was doomed: Pirin tied the most games this season – 14 – and the consequence was fewer points than anybody else.

The other relegated team was Minyor (Pernik) – together with 3 other teams they ended with 27 points and lost the race on worse goal-difference.

Standing from left: Petrov, Ganev, Boyanov, Yordanov, Evgeniev, Malinov, Grigorov, Naydenov, Banchev.

Crouching: Serafimov, Dobrev, Slavov, Todorov, Vassilev.

To a point, Minyor was similar to Pirin –a core of aging veterans and hardly anybody of class behind them. Evlogy Banchev, Georgy Yordanov, Vesselin Evgeniev, Slavi Malinov, and Angel Slavov defined the club in the 1970s, but now one after another they were leaving football – only Slavov and Evgeniev remained in the team after this season. But unlike Pirin, Minyor was not an incubator of young talent – they largely depended on players discarded by the big Sofia clubs, such as Ganev, Dobrev, Naydenov. They were not old, they were experienced, but also their best days were already in quite a distant past – never becoming stars and eventually losing ambitions. Whatever bright talent emerged was quickly moving to Sofia – the future national team player Grigor Grigorov and the very promising centre-forward Emil Serafimov from this squad. Minyor was shaky and unbalanced, heavily depending on few strong players – not enough for solid performance.

The relegated were somewhat unlucky – if either team earned only a point more, they may have been safe. The irony was in that neither of the relegated was really weaker than most of the league. Tiny deficiencies decided the future, but still there were teams going up and down. The absolute debutant Belasitza (Petrich) was a pleasant surprise – the team was considered prime candidate for relegation, but they finished 12th. True, goal-difference helped them, for they had 27 points too, just the same as Minyor. Belasitza made the most of their home games, playing with good spirit and the final result was great for them not only because they were good for at least one more first division season, but also because Pirin was relegated when they remained: Pirin was the big club of the region, which meant that Belasitza was supplying club – if there was bright talent, it was going to Pirin, as it happened before this season started: Zhoro Vanchev and Atanat Atanassov in the Pirin’s photo above were spotted playing for Belasitza. The movement of players was, of course, two-way: bright youngsters going to Pirin, no longer needed old players of Pirin moving to Belasitza – ironically, Belasitza benefited from seemingly unfavourable exchang and former Pirin players were the dirving force of the team, but the most impressive and important player was local – a diminutive mid-fielder called Lozan Trenchev, bald and already 28 years old, who so far played only second-division football. Now he was praised all around the league and the fate of Belasitza depended largely on his inspiration – his age also benefited the club: at 28, no big club was after him, for he was ‘too old’.

The other improving club was Spartak (Pleven) – although with only 31 points and negative goal-difference, they finished 5th.

Retrospectively, the best years in the history of the club just began – of course, Spartak was not a club ever able to compete for a title or a cup, but finishing in the upper half of the table was the best they could aim for and 5th place was an achievement of the finest kind. Spartak managed to build a solid team from a mix of players big clubs found unsatisfactory, various second division strong players, and local talent. But their jewel was Plamen Getov, one the biggest Bulgarian stars of the 1980s and, arguably, the most entertaining player of the decade – highly skillful, excellent goal-scorer, and particularly deadly free-kick taker: fans particularly loved his unusual delivery – Getov took free-kicks from the spot, without running to the ball, but simply staying next to it, taking aim, and kicking it in the net.

The last improving team was Cherno more (Varna), similar to Spartak (Pleven) in its formation, except if Spartak depended on former players of Levski-Spartak, Cherno more used former CSKA players. The crisis of the second half of the 1970s was overcome, there was solid new squad which, like Spartak’s, was good for upper-half of the league performance.

Going down were two clubs: Sliven (Sliven), 14th this season with 27 points, was at last caught up by their predicament. For years, Sliven served as something similar to a fram-team for CSKA and its performance heavily depended on the players sent by CSKA. It was always risky, for it was impossible to make a stable squad – whoever played welled was moved back to CSKA and at the end of the 1970s the shuffling was too much too often. Consequently, Sliven slipped down. Botev (Vratza) on the other hand experienced genuine decline, noticeable for some time already. 12th this year with 27 points and ending there only on better goal-difference.

Crouching from left: Christov, Tzvetanov, Bozhilov, Panov, Penkov, Karchev, Vesko Petkov, Belyov.

Middle row: Dobromir Zhechev – coach, Krastev, Dimitrov, Venkov, Vassil Petkov, Mitov, Efremov, Stoimenov, Petar Kamenov – assistant coach.

Third row: Kyupriisky – team doctor, Tomov, Maldzhansky, Angelov, Vassilev, Toshkov, Arsov, Kostov – masseur.

Either starting rebuilding too late, or unable to rebuild at all – Botev had a few veterans from their once upon a time strong team left – Penkov and Angelov were at the very end of their careers and behind them were those, who were just young hopefuls in the early 1970s, but now should have been the leading core of the squad – Toshkov, Efremov, Tomov, Belyov. However, they never fulfilled expectations and it was clear for years already that they were not first-rate players. To them eventually were added more experienced players, but the club they came from tells the story: Bozhilov, Karchev and Stoimenov came from Akademik (Svishtov). They were largely a second-division players, so not exactly bringing class to the team, let alone leadership. This squad was suspect at best – too much experience, but little ambition and, since most were above 25 years of age, its clear that none would be improving in the future – they already reached the limits of their potential. All except central defender Valentin Maldzhansky, who joined Botev not long ago – a late bloomer, already 30 years old, but playing better and better, eventually included in the Bulgarian national team. But he was just one player , unable to stop the downfall of Botev.

The club, which went down this year, was Slavia – they finished 7th with 29 points, losing 6th place to Cherno more on goal-difference. Only the previous year Slavia was running for the title… the squad was the same…

Well, Slavia was practically robbed from the title the year before – they were ordered to give up in favour of CSKA. Slavia fans bitterly remember to this very day ‘the robbery’, often omitting the real reason: Slavia belonged to an Army branch at the time, thus, eventually subordinated to the Ministry of Defense. The order came via Army structure – CSKA was the prime club of the Army as whole. The team immediately was demotivated, seeing its efforts and ambitions meaningless and practically collapsed this season – and stayed demotivated and going further down in the near future. But there was also tradition: Slavia was notoriously moody and unpredictable. Inconsistency is there mark to this very day, so it was not just ‘the robbery’ guilty for the weak season: it was also typical Slavia – great one day or year, terrible the next.

Chernomoretz (Bourgas) apparently reached the limits of its potential – 11th this season with 28 points.

Crouching from left: Ivaylo Kotzev, Nikolay Kalushev, Stoyan Mavrov, Ivan Ilchev, Aleksy Zhelyazkov, Ivan Yovchev.

Middle row: Toma Tomov – assistant-coach, Lyubomir Sheytanov, Ivan Pazachev, Roumen Christov, Valentin Deliminkiv, Georgy Madzharov, Rossen Kavrakov, Dimitar Papazov, Vassil Zhelev – coach.

Top row – Dimitar Dimitrov, Ivan Pritargov, Georgy Manolov, Tzvyatko Mutafchiev, Todor Raykov, Georgy Iliev.

Two year ago this team was considered very promising and compared to Trakia, for it was based on bunch home-grown youngsters – Ilchev, Yovchev, Deliminkov. But unlike Trakia, Chernomoretz had no junior system bursting with talent and this one generation stayed alone. By now, there was no more improvement – seemingly, the team reached its best and just stayed there: pleasant mid-table team.

So was the league… except the top four. The sensation was Akademik (Sofia) – it looked like after the crisis of the late 70s, dropping them down to second division, they were coming back with their next great team. It was entirely new team – only one player from the old days was still around, the striker Borislav Gyorev, who played a very minor role in the great team of 1973-77. The new squad was made pretty much like the one before: a team of experienced, but no longer needed by the big clubs, players blended with young talent from provincial clubs. The chemistry was right, new leaders emerged, Akademik played a great season, competing for a top place and finishing 4th at the end with 34 points – 3 points ahead of Spartak (Pleven), but only 2 points short of silver medals. At the moment the revival was assured… but it turned out to be faulty expectation: immediately after the end of the season the key players moved to Levski-Spartak and CSKA, followed by others as well. The old problem of Akademik: as a ‘students’ club, it was unable to offer more than education to its players – money were short, players cannot stay after finishing University, the big clubs able to snatch whoever they wanted, and on top of everything, students were just fine continuing their education without playing for Akademik. Instead of new great era, this season turned out to be only a meteoric season and the very last successful season of the club.

No matter how good Akademik was, it was not for a moment considered a title contender – the race was between 3 clubs and it was peculiar one this year. Trakia (Plovdiv) ended 3rd with 35 points.

Bronze medalists crouching from left: G. Andreev, I. Mikhaylov, P. Zekhtinsky, K. Kostadinov, Kr. Manolov, T. Pachev, K. Stoyanov, M. Bakalov, G. Slavkov.

Standing: D. Dermendzhiev- coach, B. Blangev, D. Mladenov, At. Marinov, S. Khorozov, G. Tenev, D. Vichev, K. Peychev, K. Tanev, M. Argirov, P. Dimitrov, G. Bakalsky, I. Glukhchev – assistant coach.

Trakia was the most promising team for some time and great things were expected from this very young squad – there was so much talent, that it was even difficult keeping track, for the wonderful youth system of the club constantly pumped up new boys even more exciting than those of the previous year. The result was highly competitive team with a long bench: consider just this a an example – the three goalkeepers. Vichev was already a national team member, his back-up Peychev was included in the national team as soon as he managed to get some playing time, and Tenev was Junior national team regular, already considered more talented than his older teammates. There was no doubt these boys will be winners, the question was only when – and so far they were excused for been too young yet, not experienced enough, not at their peak. The same was found valid for their coach too, for Dinko Dermendzhiev was still a player two or three years back and took coaching position right after retirement: still too young, still without enough experience. Just wait a bit longer… which was becoming already an old excuse, used every year – this team had to deliver at last. Well, they played as equal with the big clubs by now, even beating them frequently, so… next year surely. Just give them a year – bronze was very promising step, as a whole the season was splendid. Yet… with CSKA somewhat underperforming and Levski-Spartak shaky only 3rd place? At least Trakia played solid season, going upward.

Levski-Spartak finsihed 2nd with 36 points. One better than Trakia, 4 less than the champions. The best defensive record this championship, rather weak strikers.

Sitting from left: T. Barzov, R. Gochev, St. Staykov, A. Stankov, E. Spassov.

Middle row: K. Ivkov – assistant coach, V. Grekov, Pl. Nikolov, St. Aladzhov, Chr. Mladenov – coach, N. Zaykov, N. Grancharov, V. Balevsky, P. Bonov – assistant coach.

Third row: Y. Yordanov, Vl. Delchev, B. Borissov, Vl. Nikolchev, M. Stanchev, P. Panov, Kr. Borissov, B. Mikhaylov, Br. Kochev.

Sitting from left: Christo Denchev, Plamen Nikolov, Roussy Gochev, Krassimir Chavdarov, Todor Barzov, Emil Spassov.

Middle row: Kiril Ivkov – assistant coach, Petar Petrov, Petar Kurdov, Bozhidar Iskrenov, Emil Velev, Christo Mladenov – coach, Borislav Borissov, Grigor Grigorov, Plamen Tzvetkov, Vesselin Balevsky, dr. Zhan Fillipov – team doctor.

Tor row: Sofrony Sofroniev – masseur, Nikolay Grancharov, Vlado Delchev, Nasko Sirakov, Angel Slavkov, Marin Stanchev, Valery Grekov, Borislav Mikhaylov, Mikhail Valchev.

The selections of summers 1980 and 1981 – perhaps showing the problem of Levski-Spartak. The team aged and naturally it was difficult to replace major stars like Pavel Panov. Experienced and largely successful coach was at the helm, Christo Mladenov, but he had a weakness already known: he was mellow and did not take risks. He preferred established squads, but veered drastically in the opposite direction if things were not going well, although never really risking. The traditional strength of Levski-Spartak was depending on home-grown players – the club had talented juniors, but Mladenov was not willing to play them. Levski-Spartak had a weak season, finishing 2nd, but hihly criticized by the fans and not at all performing steadily as CSKA or showing great potential for the future as Trakia. And Mladenov went in the opposite direction – during the ‘1300 years Bulgaria’ Cup in the summer of 1981 (the lower photo is taken at that time) he introduced his new team: gone were Panov, Aladzhov, Staykov, Yordanov, Krassimir Borissov, Nikolchev, Kochev. A radical change… but not radical enough – Barzov and Grancharov remained. Yes, they played with big hurts, but also were part of the old team and aging themsleves. Few others were even more suspect, for they either failed to impress (Stanchev), or clearly were not to be used by Mladenov juniors (Grekov, Zaykov, B. Borissov). To new arrivals were mostly juniors – Mikhaylov, Sirakov, Velev, Slavkov – , one player already dismissed from arch-rival CSKA – Krassimir Chavdarov, and three players, who impressed only during 1980-81 – Mikhail Valchev and Plamen Tzvetkov from Akademik (Sofia) and Grigor Grigorov from relegated Minyor (Pernik). Given Mladenov’s inclination to mistrust youngsters, it was clear that the experienced players taken from other clubs will be regulars and they were suspect, except Mikhail Valchev. So it was the old game again… a shaky team and no real chance given to the young talent. Levski-Spartak was not getting the right chemistry and was scared to introduce fully new team. Second place – a failure from the club’s and its fans point of view – was just the best these team could do.

This left, on the surface, CSKA with easy task – the arch-rival shaky and Trakia still not ripe for a real challenge, one team race then from start to finish. It was that, when looking at the final table – CSKA finished 4 points ahead of Levski-Spartak – but…

Sitting from left: Angel Kalburov, Ruzhdy Kerimov, Metody Tomanov, Radoslav Zdravkov, Plamen Markov, Tzvetan Yonchev, Mario Valkov, Nikola Velkov.

Middle row: Stoycho Mladenov, Angel Rangelov, Georgy Iliev, Toshko Arsov, Spas Dzhevizov, Georgy Dimitrov, Georgy Velinov, Dinko Dimitrov, Ivan Zafirov, Tzonyo Vassilev.

Top row: Nikola Milanov – director of the football club, Stoyan Yordanov – assistant coach, Asparoukh Nikodimov – coach, Dimitar Penev – assistant coach.

Well, 21st title and this was the best squad in the country. Asparoukh Nikodimov assembled wonderful team and, seemingly, the third great team of CSKA has finally arrived – and with a bang: the boys reached the ½ finals of the European Champions Cup. Perhaps that was why they were not overwhelming in the home championship – too many matches, preoccupation with European tournament, may be even a bit giddy by their European success and not giving their best against the smaller clubs of the Bulgarian league. But the team was already made and was going to be only better – Nikodimov was eventually known for getting rid of former teammates: only two were in this team – Zafirov, on his way to retirement, , and Tzonyo Vassilev, to be dismissed soon as well. Other veterans had their days numbered too – Goranov, and Angel Rangelov, still a national team option, had it written on the wall as well – either a reserve or out, for there was a great new pair of central defenders, the Dimitrov brothers, Gerogy and Dinko. The squad was young, yet experienced, and perfectly balanced without any weak position. The bench was long enough for trying various combination, and the philosophy was attack. Take away Zafirov and Vassilev, for they were not going to be part of the team anymore and may be a reserve or two, like Arsov, who in their own turn would not last long – and this squad was practically the Bulgarian national team of the 1980s decade – some did not play for long, but the core would: Velinov, Georgy Dimitrov, Stoycho Mladenov, Zdravkov, Yonchev, Markov. So, champions, but not overwhleming champions… a bit strange season for the best by far Bulgarian team at the moment.

Bulgaria II Division

The Second Division, at its largest, was also quite boring, for there was no real race for promotion – one team in each group dominated, the rest were not bothered at all. And why should they? With 22 teams in each group, clubs from larger cities preferred to stay in the lower level to the risky and may be brief existence in the top league. So was the choice of many relatively good players – with so many clubs to choose from, almost every good player was quickly finding a place for himself as a local star. But with good players dispersed wide, there was hardly a strong team around. And in the Northern Group of Second Division there were no thrills:

Dobrudzha (Tolbukhin) finished 18th, barely escaping relegation. Standing from left: Atanas Petkov, Petar Kirov, Christo Bozhkov, Ivan Georgiev, Ivan Manolov, Stoyan Gospodinov.

Crouching: Valentin Delchev, Dinko Christov, Valentin Radev, Nikola Konanov, Krassimir Nyagolov.

Gone were the days Dobrudzha played First Division football and the only goal was keeping a place in the Second Division. No ambition at all.

Lokomotiv (Mezdra) – 12th. Second Division was their highest aim, now safely in mid-table and no worried. The typical second division club.

So was Ludogoretz (Razgrad) – 8th this year, which actually was a strong performance. If somebody told the players that the club will be Bulgarian champion in the 21st century, they prabably would have died from laughter.

Dunav (Rousse) finished 9th – a very weak season for a club considered one of the likeliest candidates for promotion. Sitting from left: Christo Topalov, Nasko Borissov, Ivan Kubratov, Vasko Simeonov, Nikola Christov, Stanislav Pashev, Krassimir Tzvetanov, Nikola Spassov.

Middle row: Krassimir Kolev, Pavel Malinov, Yani Prisadnikov, Atanas Tzanov – coach, Petar Frolov – assistant coach, Christo Prisadnikov, Miroslav Mironov, Slavy Damyanov.

Third row: Petko Tzirkov, Stoyan Illiev, Ventzislav Davidkov, Kolyu Chizmarov, Yordan Fillipov, Krassimir Bozhurin, Georgy Kovachev, Ignat Mladenov.

By names, this team should have been going up, but… the biggest names were Yordan Fillipov and Nikola Christov, both former national team players. They were getting old, however – as well as few other well known local stars: Damyanov, Malinov, Illiev, and Mladenov. The rest plainly had no ambitions -the Prisadnikov twins were the prime example: highly talented, they spent their careers playing second division football. The only player, who aimed higher, was Miroslav Mironov and although he never became a big star, he made his name – but with another club.

Like Dunav were the other theoretical ‘leaders” – Yantra (Gabrovo) – 5th with 50 points, ZhSK Spartak (Varna) – 4th with 52, Akademik (Svishtov) – 3rd with 53, and Shoumen (Shoumen) – 2nd with 53 points and best scoring record in the league, 92 goals. None of them tried to run for promotion, though – Etar (Veliko Tirnovo) was the only one and they finished at the top with 62 points, leaving Shoumen 9 points behind.

Champions of Northern Second Division and promoted to the top league. Standing from left: Vassil Metodiev – coach, Radiya Doychev, Kiril Rabchev, Iliya Marinov, Boris Borissov, Boyko Dimitrov, Nikolay Kotzev, Stefan Lakhchiev, Ivan Nenchev, Krassimir Kovachev, Georgy Vassilev – assistant coach.

Sitting: Plamen Yankov, Kadir Bellaliev, Christo Belchev, Georgy Tzingov, Vasko Daskalov, Krassimir Kalchev, Petko Tzanev, Ibryam Mustafov.

Well, Etar was just relegated and quickly tried to move back to first division – they succeeded rather easily, but the squad was seemingly weaker than the one Dunav had. The big star was Lakhchiev, the rest was mostly made of players with good first division experience, but unable to establish themselves in their former teams – Doychev, Rabchev, Belchev, Nenchev, Kovachev, Borissov. Eventually Tzingov and Dimitrov became well known players, but so far they were not considered very promissing. The real strength of the team was the coaching stuff: Vassil Metodiev, arguably the best Bulgarian coach at the time, was paying heavy price for eliminating Dinamo (Kiev) with his former club Lokomotiv (Sofia) and now was reduced to second-division coach. He was helped by very talented Georgy Vassilev, who became one of the most successful coaches in Bulgarian history – at the moment, he was just beginning his career, soaking wisdom from Metodiev. This duo made the best of more or less rag-tag squad and won the championship, but it was quite clear that this team would be in dire straits among the best – as it was the previous season, when Etar was relegated from First Division.

The Southern Second Division did not even had so many former first division members by now and it was clear even before the season started that whoever decided to try promotion will get it.

Maritza (Plovdiv) once upon a time played in the first division, but also a long time ago settled for easy living in the second: this season 15th.

Hebar (Pazardzik) could not be bothered even with dreaming of top league football – they were comfortable with second division football. One year a bit higher, one year a bit lower, but small variations really – they were the typical ‘good’ second division club. 11th this season, so what? Right in the middle of the table.

Assenovetz (Assenovgrad) was 3rd – again, one of the ‘solid’ constant second division members. But they had a great season – for their usual standards. Never so high before, a success. Success, but with caution: Assenovetz never came even close to first place. Third was more than enough.

Lokomotiv (Plovdiv), just relegated, was considered the league favourite and expected to win easily. The team was shaky, but still lead by one of the all-time greatest Bulgarian players Christo Bonev; the league was nothing much, it should have been just a walk-over. But they finished 2nd… leaving no memory at all: this photo most likely is not from 1980-81 season – is from that dark period of the club’s history, though.

With Lokomotiv (Plovdiv) out of the picture, only one team aimed higher – Haskovo. With 67 points they were supreme, ending with the best record in both second division groups – they lost only 3 matches and won 28. Received 19 goals – almost half of the goals Etar allowed in the Northern group.

Winners of the Southern Second Division: Sitting from left: Ivan Tishansky, Todor Apostolov, Ivan Vassilev, Mitko Nikolov, Kostadin Latinov, Yordan Kichekov, Sasho Georgiev, Aleksandar Vezenkov.

Middle row: Atanas Atanassov – assistant coach, Svetlin Cholakov, Valentin Kostov, Georgy Tekeliev, Yuksel Redzhebov, Nedyalko Panayotov, Zhivko Gospodinov, Rossen Stratiev.

Third row: Marin Gochev, Stoyan Gurkov, Toshko Yanev, Aleksandar Kostov – coach, Saly Shakirov, Stoyan Dimov, Nikola Kostov.

Haskovo (Haskovo) won the second division championship for a second time – their first was in 1977-78, but they were relegated from first division immediately. Now they were going to try one more time. The team was pretty much the one from their first victory, which meant experience, but mostly second division experience – compared to Etar, they had fewer known players, although some played – and failed – for first division clubs. Like Etar, Haskovo benefited from their coach – the star of the 1960 Aleksandar Kostov. He was not a great coach, but was tricky and with great sense of humour – able to annoy opponents and drive them out of focus on one hand and on the other, able to motivate his players with jokes. His last quality was strings: as a former player of Levski (Sofia), he maintained ties with his former club and thus getting unneeded players from Levski. The former national team defender Ivan Tishansky, no longer useful for Levski, joined Haskovo and eventually others came later. For the moment Haskovo had just three strong names – Tishansky, the aging former centre-forward of Lokomotiv and Trakia (Plovdiv) Kichekov, and the local star and one of the best all-time Second Division scorers Kostadin Latinov. Enough for winning the weaker second division group, not enough for surviving in the top league, but that was a concern for the future. All great at the moment.


Although Bulgaria had fine 1980 international season, ranking its clubs 9th in Europe, the picture was rather typical: 16th in the general 5-year ranking of UEFA. Right in the middle. And so was the season, but some aspects of it were interesting and ground-breaking. One was the introduction of a new Cup – the Bulgarian Cup. There was pressure coming from UEFA, because the country was the only one in Europe – may be in the whole world – without national cup: what served for that was the Soviet Army Cup, with a trophy given by USSR. The new tournament brought big confusion – at home, it ranked lower than the older tournament,which still was perceived as the national cup tournament and its winner went to represent Bulgaria in the Cup Winners Cup for a few more years. The main problem was continuity and history: so far, the Soviet Army Cup had that, the new cup had nothing and looked like just one more tournament, more akin to the one-time cup honouring the suspect tribute of 13 centuries of Bulgaria, played in the summer of 1981 and attached to the 1980-81 season – it was international tournament, called ‘1300 years of Bulgaria’ and not to have another issue. Anyhow, the country got one more national Cup and the following years the order was slowly changed until the Soviet Army Cup was reduced to second and unimportant place.

The second big news was the start of exporting players abroad – it was done in the typical East European, or rather Soviet, manner: one player was sold at first with great caution to test the waters. The first player was neither current star, nor young.

Petko Petkov, the aging star of provincial Beroe (Stara Zagora) was sold without much official fuss to Austria (Vienna). It happened in the winter break of the season early in 1981. Petkov was 34 years old, but had impressive record: in the all-time table of goal-scorers he was 6th with 152 goals, mostly scored for Beroe and a few for his single season with Akademik (Svishtov). His goals could have been more, if Beroe did not find itself in the Second Division from time to time, but he also excelled in the lower lavel, ranking 3rd in the Southern B group with 96 goals and to him belonged a seasonal record, which very likely will never be equaled, let alone bettered: . For the national team, Petkov played 33 matches and scored 5 goals – he was never exactly a first choice and hardly impressed anyone, but there are players like that – big stars otherwise, but unsuitable for national teams. By 1980 it was clear that Petkov was approaching retirement, so to an outsider it must rather funny he was chosen to be the first Bulgarian allowed to play professionally abroad. However, nothing strange, if one follows Communist logic: he was old player with a family, which meant he was not going to create embarrassing problems. At the end of his career, he would hardly think of running away, especially with family in Bulgaria. The candidate for his services was Austria (Vienna), another guarantee that he was not going to defect: the Soviets already tried that market, selling Zinchenko to Rapid. Austria was considered friendly enough state, unlikely to accept a refugee, who arrived with official blessing. If everything went fine with the first player, other may follow. Eventually.

According to Petkov, the contarct was signed quickly and without fuss – he knew no details of it and neither he, nor his club were part of the deal: everything was conducted by the Bulgarian Football Federation, as everywhere in Eastern Europe. As for his destination, Austria (Vienna) remembered him well – once upon a time in the early 1970s they played against Beroe in the UEFA Cup and Petkov scored 6 goals in the Austrian net. Perhaps they would have signed Petkov then and there, but had to wait until late 1980 for a chance – the guy was old, but he still was able to score and, if nothing else, was a bargain. The expectations may not have been very high, but old Petkov settled well in Vienna and played for Austria until 1982 a total of 51 matches in which he scored 10 goals. So, the first Bulgarian professional emerged, soon to be followed by almost every veteran player. The Bulgarian Federation established the typical Eastern European age rule: only players above 28 years of age were to be sold to foreign clubs. The first crop was actually made of players over 30.

Lastly, there was pretty lame season, but the Second Divison was at its largest with 44 clubs playing in the 2 groups – this was coming to an end, because the Second Division was not really competitive, made painfully clear this very season. Curiously, at least one Bulgarian club played great on international level – CSKA – which strangely contrasted to the general picture. Also, a second Bulgarian won the Golden Shoe as the top European goal-scorer – Georgy Slavkov (Trakia Plovdiv) scored 31 goals this season and nobody else in Europe managed that many.

Well, that was all on the positive side. On the negative loomed the fact that 12 of the 16 First Division teams were preoccupied only with avoiding relegation and the national team failed to qualify for the World Cup finals again. CSKA was the top team at the moment in every aspect, yet, in the team of the year there was only one player of CSKA –at the same time Petko Petkov, who played only in the half of the season made the selection. In fact, only 4 players from the top 4 teams made the yearly team and just two were from Sofia’s clubs, which otherwise made 3 of the 4 strong teams this year.


Portugal the Cup

The Cup final was just one continuation of the championship clash – Benfica vs FC Porto – and Benfica triumphed again 3-1.

Standing form left: Gabriel, Teixeira, Walsh, Freitas, Simões, Rodolfo, Fonseca.

First row: Duda, Frasco, Albertino, Sousa.

Twice second –rather disappointing for FC Porto, but that was the reality at the moment.

Benfica reigned supreme – 24 titles and 17 Cups, one of the best records in the world. The Hungarian Lajos Baroti obviously made a good job, but he had the starriest squad in his hands. Benfica had a big advantage, compared to any Portuguese club, including FC Porto – money. They had no difficulty recruiting and keeping the top players. Some getting old by no stars – Nene, Toni, Humberto, Alhinho, Piertra, some at their peak – Alves, Bento, Sheu, and young stars approaching their best – Chalana, Bastos Lopes, Veloso, Carlos Manuel, Diamantino. What was perhaps misleading was that having the best players of the country did not automatically made truly formidable team – Benfica kept domestic superiority, but lost its international leading position about 10 years ago and mere accumulation of top local players was not going to restore international fame. FC Porto, unable yet to compete with Benfica at the market, was forced to another way: to build a team, and the club was doing just that. Still, Benfica was prevailing at home.