Czechoslovakia the Cup

The Czechoslovak Cup. As it had been established long ago, it was a clash between the winners of the Czech Cup and the Slovak Cup. Dukla (Prague) vs Lokomotiva (Kosice). Given the difference between the squads and the general decline of Slovak football, the final should not have been predestined. But such games hardly ever follow the obvious expectations – Dukla eventually won, but it was not a walk in the park. Lokomotiva fought back and lost minimally – 2-3.

Clearly the underdog in the final and for that reason would have been nice to see them prevail, but reality cannot be avoided: Lokomotiva had quite a weak squad presently and the best they could do was to play a brave final.

Dukla (Prague) won its 7th Cup, which was fine, but also it was a consolation prize: this team should have been a title contender, but was not. The season was quite disappointing and in view of the rise of Sparta, looked like that Dukla would be second-best in the future, at best. Thus, the Cup was still more than consolation prize. Then again, Dukla had few friends… most people preferred the symbol of Communist power losing. Politics aside, Dukla collected one more trophy.

Czechoslovakia I Division

First Division. Two teams competing for the title, two teams competing for 3rd place, much weaker, but fairly equal rest of the league, the general decline of the Slovak clubs remained, one unusual outsider. Perhaps not really an outsider – just a team which gave up at some point of the championship.

TJ Slovan CHZJD (Bratislava) – last with 19 points and relegated. The club was in decline for some years, but relegation seemed unthinkable. Yet, it happened and the most successful internationally club went down.

TJ ZTS (Petrzalka) – it was ironic to see the small club, practically from Bratislava, ahead of their famous neighbours, but that was what happened. 15th with 21 points. Relegated as well, but it was expected – their company was unexpected. Yet, both teams were similarly weak – Petrzalka had the former star of Slovan Marian Masny was their sole aged star. Slovan’s mosr recognizable player at the moment was also a veteran – the goalkeeper Pavol Michalik.

TJ ZVL (Zilina) – 14th with 23 points. Traditionally, Zilina always fought only for survival and managing to escape relegation meant good season for them. Well, they survived this time.

TJ Inter Slovnaft (Bratislava) – 13th with 23 points. Also in decline, but better than their famous neighbours. At least , Inter stayed in the league – Slovan was relegated.

TJ Tatran (Presov) – like Zilina, Tatran meandered between 1st and 2nd division and just avoiding relegation was great for them. Thus, it was fine season – 12th with 24 points – but in general, it was not not: the last 5 teams in this championship were Slovak and the remaining 3 were not much better.

TJ Vitkovice (Vitkovice) – 11th with 26 points. The lowest-placed Czech club, but it was fine for the boys – Vitkovice had no big presence in the top league historically.

TJ Lokomotiva (Kosice) – 10th with 27 points. Another Slovak club with weak season, but Lokomotiva was able to put itself together when it mattered most on one hand and on the other – their city rivals were already in Second Division and not doing well even their. From such angles, Lokomotiva was satisfying.

TJ Spartak TAZ (Trnava) – in decline for years and not showing signs for revival, but in terms of Slovak football only – doing better than most. 9th with 29 points.

TJ Ruda hvezda Cheb SVS MV (Cheb) – 8th with 30 points. Never a strong team, Ruda hvezda just enjoyed mid-table position, mostly thanks to the weaknesses of others.

ASVS Dukla (Banska Bystrica) – the best performing Slovak club at the moment, but even that was not much: 7th with 31 points. May be the fact they were Army club helped.

TJ Sigma ZTS (Olomouc) – a club with short first division history, but seemingly on ascent and one of the few bright news in the league. 6th with 31 points.

ASVS Dukla (Prague) – 5th with 32 points. Just a few years back it looked like Dukla was going to restore its domination in Czechoslovakian football, but there was no more believe there will be another golden period like those between 1950 and 1965. Good teams – yes; great ones – no. This seasons Dukla was far, far away not only from the title, but form the battle for bronze medals as well.

TJ Banik Ostrava OKD (Ostrava) – looked like they were slowly fading away. No new great talent after Werner Licka, who was not old at all, but the other well-known stars of the team were. Nothing terrible yet, but Banik only maintained a place among the top teams of the country – not a title contender and losing even 3rd place: 4th with 39 points. 7 points ahead of Dukla, but lost bronze medals on goal-difference to a team, which suffered for many years.

SK Slavia Praha IPS (Prague) – 3rd with 39 points and better goal-difference than Banik’s. Looked like Slavia was reemerging after long decline. Yet, such hopes were entertained before without fulfillment. This time Slavia had first-rate talent – Kubik, Knoflicek – and solid established players – Rott, Jarolim, Nemec. Were they to be champions was a question for the future – presently, they were not ready for more than competing for 3rd position.

TJ Bohemians CKD (Prague) – still enjoying their best period and almost winning a second title. At least, they fought hard for it and lost unfortunately: on goal-difference. 2nd with 43 points. Good squad, strong performance, the only problem was Bohemians was always the smallest of the big 4 clubs in the city and thus without a chance to recruit and keep stars.

TJ Sparta CKD (Prague) – clinched the title on better goal-difference after 19 wins, 5 ties, and 6 losses. 43 points – the same as rivals Bohemians – but 64-24 was better than 58-26 and Sparta got second consecutive title. It was their 15th in total, but most certainly there were more to come – Sparta had the best team in Czechoslovakia, most of the players defining Czechoslovakian football in the 1980s. Having the best of the current generation meant Sparta was going to dominate – and they did dominate for more than a decade: this was still early stage of their long leadership. For that reason only it would have been nicer if Bohemians won this championship, but they did not.

Czechoslovakia II Division Czechia

Second Division, Czech people’s league. A whole bunch of former top division members here, but the championship was dominated by one team,which at the end did not get promotion.

Spartak PS (Usti nad Labem) finished last with 21 points and was relegated.

Lucky boys, LIAZ (Jablonec) – back in the 70s they played top league football, but now they were at the bottom of Second Division. 15th with 22 points. But there was Czech team relegated from First Division this year, so LIAZ survived.

VOKD (Poruba) – 14th with 22 points.

VP (Frydek-Mistek) – or TJ Valcovny plechu – 13th with 23 points. Played briefly in the First Division, but this was solid second-division club. Which had a weak season for some reason, but managed to escape relegation.

Vagonka (Ceska Lipa) – 12th with 26 points. Many Czechoslovak clubs were attached to industrial plants and this one had distinctive railway sound: railways-cars making factory, most likely. ‘Vagon’ – wagon – railway-car.

VTZ (Chomutov) – 11th with 27 points.

Auto Skoda – or AS (Mlada Boleslav). Belonging to automotive-making giant Skoda, but it was not the ‘flagship’ club – just the team belonging to Mlada Boleslav’s plant. 10th with 28 points.

TZ Trinec (Trinec) – 9th with 28 points. They played in the first division once upon a time, then gradually declined to mid-table second division team.

TJ Gottwaldov (Gottwaldov) – like TZ Trinec, their memories of top-level football were fading away and the mid-table of Second Division was the norm. 8th with 31 points.

DP Xaverov (Prague) – 7th with 31 points. The only club from Prague in the Second Division, but nothing more than that: a modest club,without ability to climb up. What the name means and represents needs a Czech to tell: it is TJ Drubezarsky Prumysl. Xaverov, as they were better known, seems to be the city district they hailed from. A club from the capital, though… and thus perhaps the only team with some familiar names in it, for veteran players could join the small club for their last playing days. Better than going to the provincials… Dusan Herda was a regular for Slavia (Prague) for years, now he was kicking the ball for Xaverov.

Spartak Hradec Kralove ZVU (Hradec Kralove) – another former first division member. 6th with 32 points.

Skoda (Plzen) – 5th with 33 points. One may expect more – much more – from the team belonging to the headquarters of giant manufacturer. They played regularly in the first division during the 1970s, but now – down and out.

Relativity… modest VTJ (Tabor) was ahead of Skoda. 4th with 34 points. Promotion was out of their wildest dreams, of course, but they were solid second division member and under their own circumstances, had an enjoyable good season.

Sklo Union (Teplice) – 3rd with 34 points. Up and down, then up and down again. Quite a disappointing season, for they constantly aimed to return to top flight. Ambition is one thing, reality – another.

Dynamo JCE (Ceske Budejovice) – another club quite familiar with first-division football. However, they were not exactly up to the task – much better than the rest of the league, but too weak to really push up: Dynamo finished 6 points behind the league winners. But there was happy ending for them.

Zbrojovka (Brno) was unquestionable leader and winner of the league – 21 wins, 5 ties, 4 losses, 45-20 goal-difference, 47 points. 6 points ahead of Dynamo, the only team looking like a challenger. The best team by far and it was even a bit strange why Zbrojovka was in Second Division – as names go, they had more formidable squad than may be half of the first division teams. Kroupa, Rygel, Vaclavicek, Jarusek… getting old, though. So far, so good – Zbrojovka was going back to their familiar top league. But it was not to be – they was caught attempting to fix a match and were disqualified for promotion.

Dynamo (Ceske Budejovice) was awarded promotion in the place of Zbrojovka. No wonder, triumphant team celebrated in the streets of Brno, cheered by happy fans.

Czechoslovakia II Division-Slovakia

Czechoslovakia. Business as usual, generally. A rare look at Third Division teams:

Agro (Hurbanovo) and

Tesla (Stropkov) won in Slovakia and were promoted to the Second Division.

Second Division, Slovak people’s league. A big number of the teams playing there became better known after the post-Communist split of Czechoslovakia, when the moved up to complete the Slovakian top division. Presently, only 2 teams had played in the First Division, but one of them was in very bad shape. The other one – Plastika (Nitra) – was somewhat curiously not up to task of winning the championship. The newcomers from third level played as exact opposites:

LB Spisska Nova Ves was the outsider – last with 16 points – was relegated right after having been promoted.

The other newcomer, ZVL Povazska Bystrica, had very strong year – they ended 3rd with 38 points. Not a candidate for promotion, but with just a little luck, they could have been 2nd.

The last three teams in the championship were relegated – this, because both relegated from First Division teams happened to be from Slovakia. Along with LB Spisska Nova Ves, down went TTS Trencin, 15th, and Vagonka Poprad, 14th. Nothing much to say about most of the league and even not sting competition for the top lace: Plastika (Nitra) only managed to clinch 2nd place, beating ZVL (Povazska Bystrica) by a point, but trailed the winners by 5 points. They scored most goals in the season, but who would care about that.

This was the biggest season of unheard of club, which to the mid-1970s was mostly familiar with the third level of the Czechoslovak football. DAC (Dunajska Streda) won the championship and was going up to First Division for the first time in their history.

It was fantastic achievement of the modest club, hailing from Hungarian-speaking corner of Slovakia. At the moment, it did not matter at all how they will play in the top league – this moment was just the moment of pure joy. And it was well deserved – DAC dominated the championship, finishing 5 points ahead of Plastika. 19 wins, 6 ties, 5 losses, 60-21 goal-difference, and 44 points.

Switzerland the Cup

The Cup. Switzerland was going to have a new Cup winner this year, no matter the result of the final – Xamax was going to make its second attempt to win the Cup (they lost in 1974) and FC Aarau never reached the final before. Both teams had strong season, but Aarau was perhaps a bit better and prevailed 1-0.

Neuchatel Xamax FC lost a second cup final – to bad, but may be in future they will succeed.

The moment of glory – FC Aarau receives the Cup.

FC Aarau enjoyed its best ever season – they never won any trophy before, never reached the cup final before, never finished 2nd in the championship before. It was wonderful time for a pretty much anonymous squad. A pure victory of the underdog, unlikely to be repeated, thus, much sweeter. FC Aarau won a trophy at last. Perhaps their coach deserves all the credit for their fantastic season – Ottmar Hitzfeld. He was not famous coach yet, but bright and promising one. He was not going to last, though – Aarau was too small.

First row from left: Roberto Bockli, Peter Marti, Armando Granzotto, Thomas Tschuppert, Roberto Fregno, Karl Kung, Walter Iselin, Thomas Zwahlen, Fritschi (?) – superintendant.

Standing: Schibli (?) – assistant coach, Patrick Taudien, Agapios Kaltaveridis, Traier (?) – chairman, Ruedi Zahner, Walter Seiler, Ottmar Hirzfeld – coach, Erwin Meyer, Albert Herberth, Rolf Osterwalder, Max Richner, Hansruedi Schar.

Sweet success.



Switzerland. Standard season, no experiments. The last two teams in the Second Division were so weak, they collectively earned less than half the points the 14th placed had: FC Monthey – 4 points, FC Yverdon – 9 points, but FC Mendrisio – 28 points. Up the table – nothing much, even no dramatic race for the top two places, giving promotion to the top league.

FC Baden finished 2nd with 40 points. Promotion to First Division was their biggest success to date and they were going to join the best for the first time next season.

FC Grenchen topped FC Baden and finished the season as Second Division champions. They also had 40 points, but better goal-difference clinched the title – a big success for the small club.

First Division mirrored the second level to a point: two outsiders, so relegation was settled early, and two teams significantly stronger than the others, although the champions pulled ahead and finished with comfortable cushion.

FC Winterthur – last with 13 points. Going down. Top row from left: Christian Schleiffer, Jakob Weidmann, Urs Egli, Uwe Rapolder, Vittorio Bevilacqua, Daniel Haefeli, Hans Franz, Christian Graf.

Middle row: Paul Kilgus (Teambetreuer), Rafael Chèlos, Roger Zimmermann, Dario Zuffi, Reto Arrigoni, André von Niederhäusern, Kevin Streule, Manuel Lopez, Adi Noventa (Trainer).

Sitting: Iwan Csiatare, Peter Leu, Markus Bachmann, Walter Christinger, Ricardo Chèlos, Daniel Bamert, Thomas Unseld.

SC Zug was 15th with 14 points and also relegated.

FC La Chaux-de-Fonds – 14th with 24 points. No trouble, but they had to do something, if wanting to stay in the league – nobody can guarantee them outsiders every next season.

Vevey-Sports – 13th with 24 points. Same, as La Chaux-de-Fonds.

FC Luzern – 12th with 26 points.

FC Wettingen – 11th with 26 points.

Lausanne-Sports – 10th with 29 points.

BSC Young Boys – 9th with 30 points.

FC Basel – 8th with 31 points. In decline, but given the history of the club, a temporary decline for sure.

FC Zurich – 7th with 31 points. Similar to Basel and also expected to recover quickly. Perhaps Vaclav Jezek was no longer up to contemporary coaching.

Grasshopper – 6th with 32 points. Like Basel and Zurich, so it was temporary flop, but also the three teams illustrated the general state of Swiss football – no team was able to amass really strong squad and foreign recruits tended to be at their last legs.

FC Sion – 5th with 36 points.

FC St. Gallen – 4th with 37 points. Good season for them, but not particularly great squad – their most famous player was the former Czechoslvak national team defender Ladislav Jurkemik, who, like the key players of Basel, Zurich, and Grasshopper was getting dangerously old.

Xamax FC was perhaps the most promising Swiss team at the moment – they climbed to 3rd place with 39 points, but they were also expected to get stronger and real title contender.

FC Aarau finished 2nd with 42 points. A title contenders for awhile, although more driven by enthusiasm than real power. Having their best season ever, though.

FC Servette (Geneve) managed to pull ahead of Aarau and finished 1st with 46 points. 19 wins, 8 ties, 3 losses, 71-28 goal-difference. They were the strongest, no arguing against that, and the most balanced squad this year. Well deserved 15th title and their first after 1979.

Bulgaria the Cups

The Cups and the scandal. The difficult issue of two national cups. No way the old Soviet Army Cup to be abolished – it was political matter. It was continued and theoretically at least the winner should have been getting one of the UEFA Cup spots Bulgaria had. In reality, it was a tournament of no importance. However, in the yearly books of the time it was still listed as the primary Cup of the country. This season was the 40th issue of the torunament. Cherno more (Varna) and CSKA reached the final this year. It ended as expected – CSKA, even fielding some reserves, including new player of yet very uncertain qualities, named Christo Stoichkov, for a few minutes, destroyed Cherno more 4-0.

Thanks to the great shadow of the scandal, time plays cruelly on history: this is recent arrangement of the picture of the winners and it is wrongly named – CSKA was still CSKA when they won the Soviet Army Cup, but here they are named Sredetz, the name they got a little later. Standing from left: M. Manolov – coach, G. Dimitrov, L. Tanev, A. Chervenkov, N. Mladenov, K. Yanchev, G. Velinov, V. Tinchev, Y. Dimitrov, M. Tomanov, Em. Buchinsky, St. Yordanov – assistant coach.

Crouching: Tzv. Atanassov – assistant coach, Kr. Dossev, St. Mladenov, Chr. Stoichkov, G. Slavkov, Il. Voynov, Kr. Bezinsky, R. Zdravkov.

This final is often confused with the final in 1986 today, when Sredetz won againt Lokomotiv (Sofia). But most importantly it was left out of the 1985 scandal – this was the only tournament not affected by the scandal. CSKA, disbanded, expelled from first division, Bulgarian Cup not awarded and records stripped, still remained Soviet Army up winner. Why was that? Possibly, it was overlooked in the great frenzy for penalizing – the tournament was of so little importance and simply forgotten. More likely it was left intact for political reasons – not to enrage the Soviets by abolishing their gift. Thus, there was no more CSKA except for the purpose of the Soviet Army Cup. Yet, there was something to put under the table… theoretically, the Soviet Cup winner should get UEFA Cup spot. But CSKA was no more and part of the penalties was not to play in Europe. It was murky case and quickly put under the carpet – CSKA was rightful winner, so not to be replaced by the losing finalist. Neither CSKA, nor Cherno more got UEFA Cup spot – it went to Pirin (Blagoevgrad), suddenly placed 3rd in the final table of championship after CSKA and Levski were expelled and their records stripped. Anyway, this was the only real winner of Bulgarian tournaments which remained intact.

The ill fated Bulgarian Cup final. Levski – CSKA, the big tense derby, with layers of meaning and always ready to explode. The opposition was unsolvable: ‘the people’ vs ‘the state’. Even after Levski was amalgamated with the Police club Spartak the flavor of ‘people’ vs ‘Communists’ was not removed. Additionally, the clubs represented the Ministry of Defense, the Army, vs the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Police, with their own powers, influences, and interests. Both clubs had mighty supporters among the highest levels of the Communist Party, with CSKA having particularly strong and scheming one. But at the core of the conflict the Communist Party leaned towards CSKA – forget about who was fan of whom, forget about sport, remember ideology, for it was in the center of it: CSKA was created specifically to represent the new, Communist sport, and its supremacy over the defeated, but somehow not entirely wiped out Capitalism. To attack CSKA meant to attack Communism. To weaken CSKA meant to weaken the Socialist state and its leaders. So, often referees were instructed if not to help actively CSKA to victory, at least to put a blind eye to various infringements. In turn, tempers of the players quickly flared and the games transformed into ugly battles. Incidents happened so often, that foreign referees were called for the derby since early 1960s – and matches with foreign referees were played fairly, unlike those with Bulgarian referees. Levski tended to insist on foreign referees, CSKA normally preferred Bulgarians, who could be threatened and manipulated. That was the historic background, to which recent particulars were added to make the mixture explosive: this was the 100th match between the arch-enemies and recently Levski dominated the clash. Levski won the last 7 matches and CSKA had not win since 1982, 9 consecutive derbies altogether. This was big insult without anything else, but there was more: In the 1980 CSKA built its third great team, which won 4 titles in a row. There was real hope the golden 1950s, entirely dominated by CSKA to be repeated. The squad was great and young, and so far was running fine. But a bit later Levski had its own great young squad,which not only challenged CSKA, but now appeared to come on top and dominate Bulgarian football – they won everything in 1984, now got second title in a row, and there was no stopping. It was not only younger team than the CSKA’s squad, which did not even reached its peak yet, but it was home-grown team. That was part of mythology, which Levski’s fans waited quite long to happen again: the ‘blues’ were ‘real’ team, making its own players, unlike CSKA, stealing talent from the whole country. After Levski was taken by the Police, it became like CSKA and point was lost, but now the talented juniors were back at last. Not only that, but the boys were different – they openly identified themselves with the fans, they had ‘the true spirit’. No wonder: most of the team were both fans and players of Levski since early childhood, they came from the youth system of the club, but also from the stands, and often acted more like fans than players: beating CSKA was much more than just a football game for the, they were gangly, cocky, fearless, and acted together – after all, they were together since early childhood and were good friends. This spirit, perhaps more than talent, scared CSKA officials, for it looked like they openly defied state power and inspired the real fans into rebellious behavior. Perhaps if they were not winning, they could be tolerated – but they were winning and CSKA was seemingly going to be behind them for a long time. And to make the bomb ticking quicker, both clubs had coaches who never shied away from dirty tricks and provocations, fighters, who went to the derby as if going to war, and not really restraining their players, but encouraging them to fight by any means. Of course, nobody will ever know who gave what instructions to the referee, but it was clear from the beginning of the match that it will be troublesome one. Jumping a bit ahead of time, the referee Asparoukh Yasenov always denied that he was ‘instructed’ to help CSKA – he claimed that he made mistakes and lost the match because of the high pressure of refereeing the derby, his fault, but no more than that. Except he blamed the scorer of the first illegal goal for not telling him he played with a hand. He did not see it, Yasenov said, the line referee did not signal either, but Georgy Slavkov never confessed to him. Well, there is no player in the world, who will go to the referee and tell him to disallow his own goal – and Slavkov said exactly that: yes, he played with a hand, but it was not his job to call fouls – it was the referee’s job. The referee allowed the goal, a fact. It was the referee’s job to judge, a fact. So, at the end Yasenov insisted only on crushing under pressure and allowing the game to slip out of his hands, a weak spirit, not up to the task, not experienced enough. His explanations never convinced anybody, for all of that happened many times before – usually CSKA provoked and was let go unpunished, which triggered retaliation by Levski, also allowed by the referee as a compensation, the match deteriorates into open fighting and referee at the end expels players from both teams, not making any distinction between guilty and innocent. At the end, both teams are angry and complain. And that was what happened in this time as well. At first CSKA went into attack and pressed Levski back. Levski started somewhat sluggishly, but such things happened many times before. Some questionable tackles were made, but nothing out of hand yet. Until the 26th minute, when Slavkov scores the opening goal after playing with his hand. Everybody sees it except the referee. No signal from the liner, yet, it happened right in front of him. The goal is allowed, Levski players are enraged, surround the referee and push him every each way. Yasenov immediately gives the impression of a guilty man – instead of showing cards and firmly restore order, he seems to be trying to run away from his attackers and the incident lasts too long. Now everybody is sure that the referee is biased. His authority is lost. Levski is enraged, CSKA players also clearly understand that referee lost his authority and will allow anything just to compensate for this goal. Both teams has short-fused fighters, ready to break bones. The war begins in earnest, the coaches do nothing to calm down tempers. The match deteriorates immediately, ugly tackles happened one after another and every call of Yasenov is immediately protested by both teams. Near the end of first half CSKA scores second goal, which is fair, but damage is done already and nothing could be fair anymore. The second half begins with particularly ill mood, there is hardly any football played – everybody just tries to kill the nearest opponent. And Yasenov does nothing… Plamen Nikolov (Levksi) should be sent off , but he only gets lame yellow card. Yanchev (CSKA) should be sent off for hunting brutally Emil Spassov, the gentle midfielder of Levski, and was not even warned. Then Plamen Nikolov tackles Zdravkov of CSKA so badly, Zdravkov was sent directly to hospital, and only now Yasenov expels Nikolov. But nobody is guilty anymore – everybody protests and ugly mood only escalates, both teams transformed into berserk murderers. Yanchev tackles Spassov just out of spite and Spassov is finally provoked to reatiliation, for it is clear that the referee will do nothing. He grabs Yanchev by throat and only now Yasenov interferes, redcarding both players. This incident triggers a fight between both teams, including the reserves and the coaching stuff. Meantime CSKA gets a penalty, immediately protested by Levski with much pushing of Yasenov, who again does not show cards. CSKA does not score the penalty, which enrages them, for the save boosts both Lesvki players and fans – now it looks like the game could be turned against the odds and CSKA does not like that. They respond with brutality, triggering the mass fight on the pitch. This is the moment Yasenov to stop the game – but he does not. He expels Spassov and Yanchev, which is unfair – Spassov, a player who was never booked in his already 10-years long career, is not guilty. He only retaliated to brutality left to run free for long – the referee did not do anything to stop it, so what else to do after one is kicked around. The match continues for some foggy reason known only to the referee and the stupid officials of the game, who did not interfere and stop the game either. Levski gets a penalty, which CSKA does not like, of course, and Sirakov scores. 1-2 and 8 minutes to fight. Levski tries hard to equalize, but unable to score. Game over, CSKA wins 2-1. But nobody is happy, the mood is so bad, a fight starts again in the tunnel leading to the dressing rooms. This time the coaches, Manol Manolov, CSKA, and Vassil Metodiev, Levski, are involved. The last fight had no witnesses, so it hard to say what really happened – years later both coaches dismissed the story, but they were also like that: fighters. Even if they really fought, it was nothing special for either of them – a few punches, big deal. Does not count as anything. It was shameful match, but hardly all that terrible – ugly tackling, fights, deliberate injuries of opponents, arguing and pushing the referee – all that happened many times before and there were uglier and more scandalous clashes in the past. May be the match should have been stopped and abandoned, when it became clear it went out of hand, but it was not.

CSKA got the Cup, the spell was broken, they won at last against Levski. Nobody looked paricularly happy after all what happened on the field, but game over and life could go on. And it did until the next morning.

The Comminist Party reaction was quick, surprising, and heavy-handed. The next morning the newspapers announced its decision: it denounced the hooliganism of the previous night as something entirely despicable and advised the Football Federation to punish the culprits as follows – the final to be voided and the Cup to be given to anybody this year. CSKA and Levski to be disbanded, expelled from the championship as well, and their records stripped; their functionaries punished and expelled from sports, coaches and players suspended and fined. The whole thing was presented as a advisory proposition to the Football Federation and the Central Sport Committee, but nobody made the mistake to believe the wording – it was an order.

This order made something unthinkable – CSKA was not only a Cup winner for a night, but seized to exist. The creation and the symbol of the Communist power was no more, abolished by its own creator. That is why the photo of the winning team is worth showing – it was and it was no more. It was strong and talented squad, suddenly perished. Top row from left: Bezinsky, Slavkov, Markov, Dr. Fillipov – doctor, Levonyan -masseur, Yanchev, Tinchev.

Middle row: St. Yordanov – assistant coach, Kostadinov, Todorov, Velinov, Bogomilov, Dossev, Y. Dimitrov, Kirov, M. Manolov – coach.

Sitting: Kerimov, Zdravkov, N. Mladenov, G. Dimitrov, Tanev, St. Mladenov, Voynov.

The Party order was followed, of course, only to add more bitterness. Levski and CSKA were disbanded, there was no Bulgarian Cup winner this year, and Trakia was proclaimed champion of the country out of the blue. Clubs, belonging to big structures were forbidden – namely, clubs belonging to the Ministry of Defense (CSKA), the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Levski-Spartak), the Ministry of Transportation (Lokomotiv Sofia), and Headquarters of Building Army (a peculiar branch of the military, where soldiers served their spells as workers in industrial plants and large building sites – Slavia Sofia belonged to this body). Backtracking started just as soon as the Party announced its severe decision: Lokomotiv and Slavia had nothing to do with the Cup final, but were penalized – somehow, it was not good to highlight only CSKA and Levski, let make a bulk. Naturally, functionaries of both clubs and both coaches were penalized – the coaches, the lowest in the hierarchy, got the most severe punishment: banished from having anything to do with football. That is, they were forbidden to practice the only profession they had for life. There were fines as well, but fines were peanuts compared to taken away a profession. With players, things were more selective and suspect: Plamen Nikolov, Borislav Mikhailov, Emil Velev, and Emil Spassov of Levski-Spartak and Christo Stoichkov of CSKA were banished for life. Hasko Sirakov, Miroslav Baychev (Levski-Spartak) and Vassil Tinchev (CSKA) were suspended for 1 year. Kostadin Yanchev (CSKA) was suspended for 3 months. It is debatable who was more or less guilty, but the distribution of penalties was clearly one-sided and far from fare: Levski players were hunted down, but hardly those of CSKA. Key regular players of Levski were eliminated, but no such players of CSKA – Tinchev was not exactly a leading player and Stoichkov – just a newcomer, who played only a few games, not a regular and not a star at all. Kostadoin Yanchev who brutally tackled and provoked Emil Spassov to retaliation got only 3-month suspension and his victim, a mellow player, never involved in any dirty tricks, was banished for life. Why Baychev was suspended is a mystery – he also was not a brutal player and was hardly involved more than others in the fracas. On this level, CSKA was practically let go – young Stoichkov was the scapegoat, just to show that CSKA is punished too, but the fact is he was the least important member of the squad and although heavily involved with fighting on the pitch, he was practically sacrificed. No star of CSKA was penalized when half of the regular team of Levski was out for life. The worst penalty was reserved for Plamen Nikolov and Emil Spassov and it was not even named: both were to be transferred to FC Porto and now the deal was quietly killed. Easy doing: since they were banished from football, what transfer? There were no such players. Fairness really went to the drain with the penalties – CSKA was disbanded for despicable behavior, yet, there were players committing despicable acts. It was clear from this moment that all is just a gas and restoration will take place. Little doubt about it… abolishing CSKA cannot be, for it was an abolishing a key Communist symbol. But restoring CSKA cannot happen without restoring Levski-Spartak – it will be both, measured were taken really to weaken Levski. Mind, abolished were only the football sections of multi-sport clubs CSKA and Levski-Spartak – the clubs themselves remained, contrary to the original wording of the Party’s decision. They remained exactly as CSKA and Levski-Spartak, which remained under the sponsorship of Army and Police, in all other sports they participated with teams named CSKA and Levski-Spartak. So, it was not exactly what the Party ordered when its great anger was unleashed – powerful voices of the same Party spoke otherwise behind the scenes almost as as soon as the rush decision was published and recovery was already started. And that made the whole affair even more unfair – it had nothing to do with justice, with injured morals, with correcting shameful incident. It was just a stupid vitriol and inside battles between power holders and lies. It was heavy blow and not only to CSKA and Levski – bystanders suffered too, becoming collateral damage. Financially, may be Lokomotiv (Sofia) was the biggest victim, for they had less money than anybody to begin with – now they were cut even from that. As symbols go, supporters of many provincial clubs practically lost their identity, for out of the blue their clubs were renamed – and they had nothing to do with the ill-fated final. As corruption and black deals and scheming and influencing go – well, it was fine as ever, nothing changed. The bribing scandal in the Second Division was uncovered at the same time the Party waived its great banner of justice – and put under the lid just as quickly, for if real investigation and justice had to be done, important Party people had to go to jail. In the whole noise one other thing was left almost unnoticed: the stupid referee allowing the final to deteriorate was hardly ever mentioned and not punished at all. Behind all this lunacy was the powerful member of the Central Committee of the Comunist Party Milko Balev – a vivid supporter of CSKA, whose hatred of Levski was bigger than his love for CSKA. And because of him, another dark figure is hardly ever mentioned and practically forgotten today – his name does not even comes to mind today, but he hated Sofia clubs, supported Trakia (Plovdiv), and did a lot to push his own agenda, seizing the moment – destroy the Sofianites and make Trakia champion. Petty aim, thus, even more destructive. Justice… there was nothing just at all. Problems popped out right away, quickening the backtracking – the immediate one was the qualifications for the World Cup. Bulgaria had a chance and wanted to go the finals,and the Party was never to sacrifice some kind of popular glory for justice. Those banned for life were key national team players… they were restored, all punished players. The aftermath… the next season was unusual, because CSKA and Levski, now under new names, were in disarray, but only for that season. The Party did not even had the guts to move the ‘expelled’ and ‘disbanded’ teams to the Second Division. Christo Stoichkov still has a grudge for the ‘bastards’ – meaning mostly the Football Federation – for almost destroying his career before it even started: he was the likeliest candidate to serve at least a large chunk of his original penalty, for he was nobody, thus, the easiest showcase of ‘principles in action’. CSKA was openly back under Army umbrella after less than two years, Levski back in the hands of the Police, although this was supposed to be a secret. Nothing changed except the names were new – and hated by the fans of both clubs; trophies for this season were lost – and restored years later; Bulgaria had no team for the Cup Winners Cup for the 1985-65 issue of the tournament; players fretted for awhile that their penalties may be real – but perhaps by the start of 1986 even Stoichkov was not assured that there was nothing to fret about. Coaches and functionaries were not exactly left jobless and even Nikolov and Spassov went to play abroad. These two were the only ones to really suffer – FC Porto was just beginning its great climb leading them to winning the European Champions Cup. Nikolov and Spassov may have been part of this success – but they lost the contract and playing a bit in Sweden and Belgium was hardly a consolation.

Bulgaria I Division

First Division. The picture has two faces: one before and during the season and another after its end, when the Communist Party interfered with its draconian decree. First of all, there were new changes to the rules introduced. No points were given, if a match ended scoreless 0-0. The main objective for this rule was an aim of increasing scoring, which steadily fell down after 1971. How wise was such rule should be considered after seeing the final table. The other change was abolishing the short-lived promotion/relegation play-offs between those just above relegation zone and the second-placed teams in the Second Division. On the surface, the change made some sense after the reorganization of Second Division from 2 groups to one league. Behind the facade, it looked like that the grumbling over ‘operation saving Slavia’, which took place at the end of the previous season was taken into account and without fuss the old rule was abolished. That was all about the new design of the championship. Four new teams joined the top league for this season as a result of the effort to keep Slavia out of relegation – all of them were well-known former members of first division, but their strength was somewhat dubious. As a general observation, there were almost no surprises during the season and the championship was dominated as usual by Levski-Spartak and CSKA. Scoring jumped up, but how much the new rule contributed to it was questionable – first of all, Levski, CSKA, and Trakia had formidable strikers and scored a lot, thus increasing the goals-per-game average. The new rule ‘encouraging’ scoring by itself could not do much: one needs scorers. Very few games ended 0-0, so only few points were lost – just one team, Cherno more (Varna) ended 3 matches 0-0 and only three teams ended with a scoreless tie twice, Trakia (Plovdiv), Minyor (Pernik) and Spartak (Pleven). There was one casualty of the rule – Minyor (Pernik) ended relegated just because lost 2 points on scoreless ties. On the other hand, Etar (Veliko Tirnovo) mastered the new rule: they won 14 games and lost 15. Their single tie was scoreless, so no point for it, but there was no danger with such record, but secure mid-table position. It was painfully clear what the danger of losing points did: play to win at home, and to the devil with away games. Not a new approach, but now something was added to it: a silent understanding between the clubs that whoever hosts a match should win it. You give me 2 points now, I give you 2 points later. Nobody can prove fixing ever. All that mattered little because of the great war between Levski and CSKA for supremacy.

Chernomoretz (Burgas) was the league’s outsider this season – somewhat, the bright squad of few years back stalled and instead of going up, went down. Last with 21 points.

Newcomer Minyor (Pernik) ended next to last with 25 points. True, the squad was shaky, but they lost 2 points to scoreless ties and that did them – in normal counting, they would have been just above relegation zone.

ZSK Spartak (Varna) were lucky – thanks to the misfortune of Minyor, they survived with 26 points. Now, that was the team much praised only a short time before, which went to play againt Manchester United in the European competitions… what went wrong? What went wrong was the simple fact that the club had no home-grown talent and heavily depended on good, but aging players, lured from other clubs. It was clearly short-term policy, ready to misfire: veterans call it a day, no similar players available to replace the retirees and the end comes. Point in case: if Diev, Gyorev, and Smilkov were really good, they would have been regulars in their former clubs.

Dunav (Russe), a newcomer like Minyor – 2nd-placed in the Second Division the previous year and promoted only thanks to the strange relegation/promotion play-offs – was hardly a team for top-league football, so they struggled, looked like going back to where they came from, and eventually were lucky to survive with 26 points (they lost 1 point). New rule or not, 10 teams were largely concerned with avoiding relegation this season, especially in the spring half of it, so Dunav was among the happy survivors.

And so was Beroe (Stara Zagora) – they finished 10th with 26 points (1 point lost to scoreless tie). Their great star Petko Petkov coached them right after retiring as a player and he was sacked after the end of the season. Of course, it was impossible to see the future at the time, but it is mind boggling now: this very squad was entirely different in the next season. Weird ups and downs were typical for Beroe, but to go from barely avoiding relegation to the title was too much of a transformation.

Sliven (Sliven) went down – 3rd in the previous season, although thanks to late penalty of Botev (Vratza), which awarded them 2 extra points after the season finished, now they plummeted down to fighting for survival. Same squad, though… Their captain, Nikolay Arabov – crouching 2nd from right – was regular national team players and the only star. The traditional help from CSKA remained as well – three former CSKA players were here. The rest was middle of the road players, still young, but already with massive experience.

Cherno more (Varna) – 10the with 26 points (1 point lost to scoreless tie). Barely escaping relegation the previous year and largely thanks to the operation for saving Slavia and no better this year. Still suffering from the corruption scandal two years ago, which banished half of their team.

Spartak (Pleven) – 9th with 27 points (2 points lost to scoreless ties). Newcomers and doing relatively well, but… they were expelled, when found guilty of bribing two years ago. Unlike Cherno more, they did not lose players – the club was bribing others, its players were not involved – and this was perhaps the best squad Spartak ever had. Came back to top division right away and, frankly, expected to be stronger. So, a bit of disappointing season – especially for a team led by one of the greatest stars of the 1980s, Plamen Getov, and coached by one of the best coaches the country ever had, Georgy Vassilev. Sitting from left: V. Sabotinov, Kr. Lazarov, Pl. Getov, G. Vassilev – coach, V. Daskalov, Bl. Krastanov, F. Spassov.

Middle row: St. Velichkov – assistant coach, D. Todorov, Tzv. Tzvetkov, Tzv. Krastev, R. Christov, Ml. Angelov, V. Spayiisky, Kirchev, Al. Chenkov – assistant coach.

Top row: St. Parchanov, Kutyanov, Ochev, Tz. Gavazov, M. Gavrilov, Bl. Petkov, V. Nikolov.

Etar (Veliko Tirnovo) – 8th with 28 points (1 point lost to scoreless tie). Solid or clever – 14 wins, 1 tie, 15 losses. Not really in danger, not very strong either… nothing remarkable. Future greats – Krassimir Balakov and Trifon Ivanov – were already playing. Balakov was regular, Ivanov just a humble beginner, playing rarely.

Slavia (Sofia) – 7th with 29 points (1 point lost to scoreless tie). Of course, nobody would officially say that rules were hastily changed to save them from relegation the previous season, but the club knew it was in trouble and tried to improve the fading squad. It was not a rebuilding, though – just a patch-work. All hopes were placed on three veterans – Tchavdar Tzvetkov agreed to play one more years as playing assistant coach; Andrey Zhelyazkov returned from Feyenoord, and another illustrious veteran also came from foreign spell – Tzvetan Yonchev, who made his name as CSKA winger. Frankly, there was no future in the trio, but they had big names and as names go – at least the regular eleven looked descent. Really, the future was much to desired for: only two promising young players, not enough for a core of new strong squad – the goalkeeper Antonio Ananiev and center-forward Petar Aleksandrov.

Sitting from left: Mladen Radkov, Zheko Andreev, Zefir Badiev, Ilian Aldev, Ivan Khaydarliev, Tzvetan Yonchev, Ivan Piskov, Pavlin Dimitrov, Dr. Mikhail Iliev – doctor.

Middle row:Trendafil Terziisky – conditional coach, Plamen Petkov, Antonio Ananiev, Svetlin Kalistratov, Georgy Iliev, Andrey Zhelyazkov, Petar Aleksandrov, Ivaylo Venkov, Yordan Kostov, Slavcho Niklenov, Kostadin Krastanov, Aleksandar Shalamanov – coach.

The season was so-so at best and Slavia finished it with 14 wins, 14 losses, and 2 ties, one of them scoreless. Not as bad as the previous year, but without much promise either – the veterans helped, but it was clear they were goners: Zhelyazkov, the only one of them who was still playing for the national team, was bound to play abroad again; Tzvetkov played his last season; Ivan Iliev was near retirement and very likely to play his last days somewhere else. Aldev and the two former CSKA players, Yonchev and Georgy Iliev, were also too old to build a new team around them. Rebuilding barely started and the immediate goals seemed to be just hanging in the league.

Botev (Vratza) – 6th with 29 points. The previous year they were found guilty of bribing and their match against Sliven was voided and awarded to Sliven – which changed the final table in a scandalous manner: ZSK Spartak was turned back at the final ceremony and the bronze medals given to Sliven. ZSK Spartak protested in vein and the whole issue was solved in 1990, when the old decision was overruled and ZSK Spartak installed back at 3rd place. This season Botev was guilty of nothing, but felt casualty of the Cup final scandal – they had wrong name! A name of historic person. And were renamed. But that was after the season ended, Otherwise, nothing particularly noticeable – relatively good season as far as final position. Crouching from left: Valery Grekov, Valery Tzvetanov, Yulian Emilov, Tzvetan Danov, Ivan Stoyanov, Tzvetan Petrov.

Middle row: Petar Kamenov – coach, Todor Todorov, Todor Mitov, Rossen Sabotinov, Ivan Radoslavov, Ventzislav Lukanov, Nikolay Dobrev, Georgiev, Georgy Kamenov – assistant coach.

Top row: Dr. Petar Kyupriisky – doctor, Danail Marinov, Emil Marinov, Lyudmil Tzvetkov, Ventzislav Bozhilov, Bichovsky, Iliya Valov, Kostov – masseur.

Pirin (Blagoevgrad) performed best of the newly promoted clubs and finished 5th with 31 points. Well, it was not particularly exciting season, but at least the troubles plaguing them since the late 70s appeared to be over: a new team was established, there were no scandals and perhaps the most important factor was that no great young talent emerged, attracting the interest of the big clubs. Petar Mikhtarsky, 19 years old, just started his career and was noticed, but Lady Luck smiled on Pirin – all big clubs had formidable center-forwards at the moment. But the smile was even bigger that that: thanks to the Cup final scandal, Pirin went to represent Bulgaria in the UEFA Cup – ate least statistically and with artificial help, this season became the best ever season in the history of the club.

If Pirin was lucky, thanks to circumstances, Lokomotiv (Sofia) was unlucky, because of the same circumstances. They were seemingly ready with new good squad – few veterans remained, but their role was largely supportive by now and retirements were going on smoothly: Yordan Stoykov retired (and became the assistant coach of the team), but Ventzislav Arssov returned from Cyprus. He, Georgy Bonev, and Boycho Velichkov were only remains of the team of the 70s, but talented youngsters already gathered experience and promised solid, if not great future. Velichkov and goalkeeper Nikolay Donev were national team players and although they were not going to last, their absence was not dangerous. Lokomotiv played strong fall season and finished 2nd, but slowed down and dropped to 4th place by the end of the season. 33 points, finally, losing a point to scoreless tie.

Trakia (Plovdiv) finished 3rd with 33 points (2 points lost to scoreless ties) – ahead of Lokomotiv (Sofia) on better goal-difference. By now, it was expected – arguably the best squad this club ever had was not going to win a championship. It was clear for some years already – as it was clear that they too strong to drop down. Then again, it was a squad worth a title – and they got it, at least for awhile. This is a picture published after the end of the season, mostly illustrating the great confusion the Cup final created: the photo of ‘the champions’ was not actual one at all: the back-up goalkeeper Milan Karatanchev was not a member of the quad this season – he moved to Second Division Arda (Kardzhali). Anyhow, sitting from left: Antim Pekhlivanov, Marin Bakalov, Blagoya Blangev, Kostadin Kostadinov, Petar Zekhtinsky, Trifon Pachev, Vassil Simov.

Middle row: Ivan Glukhchev – coach, Georgy Georgiev, Ivaylo Stoynov, Zapryan Ivanov (this player deserves a note: during the years he appeared under three different names – Nikolov, then Ivanov, and finally Rakov) , Slavcho Khorozov, Dimitar Mladenov, Boris Khvoynev, Lyubomir Dobrev – doctor, Nikola Dafinsky – assistant coach.

Top row: Atanas Pashev, Dimitar Vichev, Roumen Yurukov, Todor Zaytzev, Kosta Tanev, Simeon Batakliev, Milan Karatanchev, Mincho Minchev.

The importance and influence of the players here is not to be denied – stretching from 1980 to the end of the 1990s, players of this squad had key roles in Bulgarian football. At least 13 of them played for the national team. Yet, as a squad, there was always something missing. May be they were unfortunate in some way, but they were no champions. Not with performance.

CSKA ‘Septemvriisko zname’ – 2nd with 36 points (1 point lost to scoreless tie). It was not their season – in a sense, CSKA lost the battle for the championship in the fall: they 3rd in half-season, lagging 5 points behind Levski. Levski played well in the spring and nothing changed: one round before the end of the season CSKA had no way of catching up. Even if the stupid rule was not in place, they lost the title – with full record and assuming they won their last match, they would have 39 points. Levski had 40, even if the rule for scoreless ties applied only to them and they lost their last match. No matter what, CSKA was second. However, the Cup final scandal happened before the last round and both top teams were expelled and disbanded. They did not play their last games and victories were awarded to their opponents – in the case of CSKA, they had to play with Dunav (Russe). Dunav benefited greatly from the penalization of CSKA: they got 2 points for nothing and escaped relegation thanks to that. If the match was played, Dunav certainly was going to be relegated – they were too weak an opponent for CSKA and it was highly unlikely CSKA would go to make some deal to save them – or at least try to save them, for Levski also had nothing to play for anymore and could give the match to Beroe, which, having better goal-difference than Dunav would be still 14th and Dunav out.

Levski-Spartak led the championship from start to finish and won the championship one round before its end. The picture was taken then, clearly for publication as soon as the championship was over: this seasons champions. Then the Cup final was played with the horrible aftermath and the photo was published 7 years later, when justice was restored. This was the great squad of Levski of mid-80s, which was destroyed. Not completely, but one can only wonder what could have been, if this team was not so severely penalized, if only for awhile: it was highly talented team, rapidly climbing up, but not yet at its peak. It could be argued, that they never reached their potential because their ascent was stopped, coach and players suspended. Frankly, when suspensions were lifted, something was missing – crucial time was lost, spirit broken down a bit. It was really a shame to kill this team, but time cannot be reversed and nothing could be changed. Anyhow, these were the champions, a second season in a row. And they were not champions…

Instead of the previous picture, this one was hastily published. It says, as if nothing happened, that this is the new champion of Bulgaria – Trakia (Plovdiv). Standing from left: Iv. Glukhchev – coach, Z. Ivanov, M. Yanev, Sl. Khorozov, Iv. Kochev, D. Vichev, G. Georgiev, K. Tanev, N. Dafinsky – assistant coach.

Middle row: L. Vlassov – masseur, Tr. Pachev, V. Simov, P. Zekhtinsky, K. Kostadinov, R. Yurukov, At. Pashev, L. Dobrev – doctor.

Sitting: R. Bayrev, Y. Dinev, M. Bakalov, D. Mladenov, A. Pekhlivanov, B. Blangev.

Here is much better photo of the champions by default. Unlike the one published in Bulgaria, the Slovak magazine published a real one of the champions – there is no Milan Karatanchev, but the actual back-up goalkeeper Mavri Yanev. He had a single appearance and disappeared without a trace, but this is just a novelty. Really important is the mood – the new champions do not look happy, certainly knowing that the title is not really theirs. It was rumored then that a new star of the Party, coming from Plovdiv schemed heavily to make Trakia champions by whatever means and seized the opportunity of the scandal to push his own agenda, thus, arguing for the strongest possible penalties for CSKA and Levski. Now this line is forgotten and the scandal heavily mythologized, focusing only on CSKA and Levski – everything else is out of the picture: the bribery scandal in the Second Division, the scheming of the functionary from Plovdiv, the unfair escape from relegation of Dunav (Russe), the renaming of whole bunch of clubs, which irritated their supporters, since they were innocent casualties of a scandal in which they had no involvement at all, the stupid rule for scoreless ties, breeding corruption. Neither Botev Plovdiv as a club – which played under the name of Trakia at the time, although they were forcibly renamed in a much earlier campaign, in the 1960s – nor their fans, not even individual players of the team, got ever much pride of the awarded title, but they got to play in the European Champions Cup – the only point of satisfaction. Then 1990 came and the artificial title was taken away and restored to Levski.

Bulgaria II Division

Second Division. One league of 22 teams. It was still too large league, but it was reduced by 14 teams. The season was tough for few former first-division members, notably Marek (Stanke Dimitrov), Rozova dolina (Kazanlik), Yantra (Gabrovo), and Belasitza (Petrich). The decline of Yantra was going on for years, now hitting the bottom. The problems of the other three were similar – their cities were small. Once out of the top league, neither club had chances for strong recruits. Just the opposite – players left them. Marek had fantastic years with very small team, which aged without any additional players of worth.

Rozova dolina (on the right, before starting home match against Lokomotiv Plovdiv in white) eventually recovered in the spring half of the season and finished 10th at the end, but the other three were relegated. Plus tiny Sportist (General Toshevo). Marek started the season with its traditional name – Marek – but the final table gives different name: Dupnitza. Yes, they have been renamed after the end of the season, when the Party decreed its weird will. It may be confusing but… the original name of the city is Dupnitza and that is the name today as well. But the Communist renamed it Stanke Dimitrov, after one of their heroes, a Soviet terrorist,which was killed once upon a time. His conspiratorial name was Marek – given to the club. But now clubs cannot use names of historic persons, so it was renamed, perhaps with some defiance of authority, to the old name of the city. The upfront was eventually spotted and the club was renamed again – this time to the mountain, surrounding the town – Rila. Fast forward to the present: today the city is again Dupnitza and the club – Marek. Mind boggling? Should be – this is Communism after all. Cannot have a club named after historic person – unless this person is Spartacus. All clubs with name Spartak were not renamed. So, there was Spartak (Plovdiv), freshly reincarnated, in the Second Divison – they finished 6th.

Because of the big scandal at the Cup final, a lot of other things were hardly mentioned and remain a mystery: most second division teams were tightly packed – 6 points divide Dupnitza (or Marek), 19th and relegated, and 5th-placed Svetkavitza (Targovishte), but for whatever unmentioned and plainly forgotten crimes, 15 teams had points deducted. Dupnitza, in fact, earned 44 points and should have been 5th, but 7 points were taken out, thus, 19th. The lucky team was Arda (Kardzhaly), the only one bellow the top 6 without deducted points – thanks to the penalization of Dupnitza, they survived, ending 18th with 38 points. Equal clubs – either that, or rampant match-fixing took place – but the league was sharply divided between 4 strong teams and insignificant bulk. Either that, or… corruption again: new rule was enforced this season in the first division and possibly for the second division as well – if a match ends with scoreless tie, 0-0, nobody gets points. Fine, although hardly making sense rule, until one looks again at the final table – the leading 4 teams lost no points. Only two other teams did not lose points, but they hardly had any ties – Svetkavitza, 5th, had only 1 tie, and Arda – 4. Shell we speculate a little? A agreement of the whole league – let score one each every game and start the really playing after that. USSR used similar rule with the same agreement back in the 1970s. Corruption or not? Well… two teams were expelled after the end of the season for corruption… suspicion is valid. Prove is another matter – who is caught pays, who is not – smiles and claims innocence, high morals, etc. Prove depends mostly on not very moral actions in football – if we remember the West German match-fixing scandal in the early 70s: the movers and shakers of the scheme ‘uncovered’ it when it did not work for them.

Osam (Lovech) was 17th with 38 points.

Neftokhimik (Burgas) – 12th with 39 points.

Septemvriiska slava (Mikhailovgrad, today Montana) – 11th with 39 points.

Dobrudzha (Tolbukhin, today Dobrich) – 9th with 39 points. And so it went.

But what mattered here was the race for promotion, involving 4 teams. All former first-division members. They battled to the very end, but the teams who stepped on the pedals in the spring-half of the championship won. Haskovo and Shumen were on top after the fall-half finished, but they had no real lead and small mistakes rather than great performance changed the positions in the spring. Haskovo (Haskovo) finished 4th with 51 points – 8 points ahead of the 5th placed Svetkavitza (Targovishte), just to give you a taste of the difference between these 4 leaders and the rest. Shumen (Shumen) took 3rd place with 53 points. Goal-difference defied them – Lokomotiv (Plovidv), the best scorers of the championship, clinched 2nd place. Shumen most likely fixed a game or two in order to get promoted and were caught. They and Pirin (Gotze Delchev), 7th in the final table. It was rather obvious – Shumen needed to win by any means; Pirin, secure in mid-table and playing for nothing, did not mind getting some cash from those in need of points. Hardly the only clubs using illegal means, but they were caught somehow and expelled from the league after the end of the season. Oh, well… justice for big fish and for small fish: no mercy for small fry like Shumen and Pirin (and conveniently, the too-large division was reduce to 20 teams). CSKA and Levski, though, remained in the same division they were expelled with massive noise from.

Lokomotiv (Plovdiv) clinched 2nd place with 53 points and better goal-difference than Shumen, and got promoted. Sitting from left: Roumen Staykov, Fedya Mikov, Eduard Eranosyan, Anyo Sadkov, Georgy Andreev – chairman of the club, Khristo Sotirov, Ivan Bedelev, Krassimir Kostov, Georgy Karushev.

Middle row: Slavcho Hadzhiev – masseur, Khristo Kolev, Georgy Tashev, Emil Illiev, Lyubomir Burnarsky, Khristo Bonev – coach, Stefan Draganov, Lyubomir Koradov, Bogomil Tilev, Georgy Popov, Vassil Ankov – assistant coach.

Top row: Dimitar Kalkanov, Ivan Georgiev, Racho Kilapov, Atanas Marinov, Georgy Dimitrov, Georgy Tenev, Lachezar Mitzin.

Return to top league football was the aim, so well done and everybody happy, but Lokomotiv suffered from imbalance for almost a decade. It had been a squad of two parts and remained so, unfortunately – Sadkov and Eranosyan were national team players and Khristo Kolev was going to join them soon. Atanas Marinov was also no stranger to the national team, but suffered of heavy injuries and played little. Tenev was highly praised goalkeeper of the junior national team. Sotirov, Karushev, Dimitrov, Draganov, Koradov were also noted for their abilities and much was expected from them in near future. Most of the squad was home grown, coming from the youth system of the club, but as a while, most of the players were very young and inexperienced. Their game was uneven, the team was plagued by injuries and suspensions. Yes, they won the Soviet Army Cup a year ago, but even winning Second Division was too much for them. The legendary Christo Bonev captained them on the way to the Cup and called it a day after that to become the coach of team. An young coach, without much experience yet – eventually, the former great player will become very good coach, but this was his beginning and it was not all that fantastic. The near future did not look very bright – observers had strong reservations, noting many shortcomings of the team, especially when playing against tight defenses and under pressure. The talent was there, but the mentality was not right. Lokomotiv depended mostly on its strikers, the defense was weak and fragile, and it was pretty much a gambling of outscoring the opponents – all or nothing. Even in second division this was not very successful approach – true, Lokomotiv scored most goals in the league, but relegated Dupnitza allowed fewer goals in their net; Lokomotiv lost 11 games and the best they could do was 2nd place and that just on slightly better goal-difference. If the stars – Sadkov, Eranosyan, and Kolev – left for stronger teams and Atanas Marinov did not recover… better not think about it. Lokomotiv was still paying heavy price for the grave mistake made in the middle of the 1970s – a group of veterans, Bonev included, were kept way too long, the team became divided into very old players and bunch of inexperienced youngsters, who never had a chance to take leading positions and dispirited left one after another the team. Then the old simply became too old and quit, and there was nobody else. So far, the division remained, it was not a homogenous squad, there was no balance and no worthy substitutes – the reserves, almost half the team, were not top league material. Mind, pretty much the same squad, with the same imbalance, was relegated the previous year from first division, lasting only one season.

Akademik (Svishtov) won the championship with 54 points from 23 wins, 9 ties, and 10 losses. Scored 67 goals, received 32 – the best defensive record this year, but 4 teams scored more goals than them. Sitting from left: Petrov, Ilchev, Ivanov, Venkov, Metodiev, Trenchev, Redzhev, Moskov.

Middle row: Atanassov – assistant coach, Andreev, E. Assenov, L. Assenov, Gelov – coach, Borissov, Russinov, Marinov, Donchev – masseur.

Top row: Toskov, Botev, Staykov, Georgiev, Filev, Peychev, Mateev.

Difficult victory, given the circumstances – it could have gone another way. But it was also fair, again, under the circumstances: Shumen was caught red-handed. For Akademik, it was a second time they won promotion to the top league – a wonderful success, but their predicament worked against them. This was ‘students’ club, attached somewhat to the local University of Economics. The University had good reputation, but the city was small and money were far from great. The main attraction was relatively easy given degree and profession, which appealed to few football players. As a students club, the squad was never very strong and also very unstable – players came from afar, stayed a few years until getting degree and left. It was structural problem more than anything – all ‘students’ clubs had no way of keeping players after they finished education, it was somewhat against the rules. That was why Akademik lasted only two seasons the first time they moved up to the top league and there was no reason to believe this time would be different: the squad had no resemblance of the team playing in the first division only a few years back. It was entirely different, yet, of the same make: mostly little known players. Nine players had top league experience, but they were mostly second-raters at best. Some showed promise years ago, like the full-back Ivan Ilchev, formerly of Chernomoretz (Burgas), but later stalled and seemingly decided to take it easy and get education instead. It was very experienced team, but from second division perspective. Of course, there were interesting names – the goalkeeper Kiril Peychev, formerly of Trakia (Plovdiv) played for the national team, but had heavy competition in Trakia and spent many years on the bench. The mid-field dynamo Lozan Trenchev, a late-bloomer, had been the motor of Belasitza (Petrich), but when his former club was quite unfairly relegated, he decided to make the best in the few years left to play and moved to Akademik – he was already 32 years old. Ilchev, of course, was also a player with good reputation. There were few promising youngsters – Iliya Redzhev, formerly of Pirin (Blagoevgrad), the Assenov brothers, formerly of Botev (Vratza) – but players like Roland Georgiev were the norm: once upon a time he was seen as promising junior and moved to the first team of Levski (Sofia). It was short encounter with top league football – he played only one match in the first division, then meandered through various small second-division clubs until joining Akademik. Now he was approaching 30 and only the team captain Nikola Moskov (who never played in the first division) and Lozan Trenchev had more second-division games than him. Nice squad, but not a first-division squad and it was clear that new recruits were needed, including a new coach, for Yanko Gelov was similar to his team – plenty of experience, but largely second-division experience with smallish clubs. It was also clear that the inevitable newcomers would not be very strong names, but various discards from other clubs.


Bulgaria. The 1984-85 season was remarkably dark episode in the football history of the country. Once again the state – that is the Communist Party – interfered, taking draconian measures. As if documents and arbitrary penalties could do miracles: there was an ‘epochal’ guidance coming down in the summer of 1984 to the tune of decreeing ‘a sharp turn in the football development’. Nothing changed, of course, but the big scandal at the Bulgarian Cup final in 1985 brought the wrath of the Party. It was hardly the most scandalous match between CSKA and Levski, but let not forget that these clubs belonged to the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, that is the Army and the Police, and both institutions had powerful Party men at their helms. It was more than football battle – it was a battle between different Party factions and their interests. So, the Party decided – not for the first time, by the way – to crash these battles. The Cup final was voided. Both clubs were dissolved and, curiously, expelled from the just finished championship. Out of the blue, the third-placed club became champion of the country. Various officials, coaches, and players were banished. Along with the big scandal, more casualties came along, which hardly made big impression and today they are mostly forgotten. On the surface, the Party’s intervention appeared ‘principled’, but that was far from reality, clear from the moment the new decree was announced: it was rumored that a relatively new and rapidly climbing up the ranks Party darling used the opportunity to push ahead his own agenda. There was a blow against the fans, as usual – it was considered that names of historic persons are not suitable for club names, for opposing fans chant against them, thus showing disrespect. A whole bunch of clubs were given new names to the displeasure of their fans, but the renaming did not go all the way down – it affected only the members of the top three levels of the football pyramid. CSKA and Levski were no more, but… only in football terms: since Bulgarian clubs were all-sport organizations, only the football sections were separated and renamed. Theoretically, neither club was belonging to its powerful sponsor, but colours, stadiums, history, achievements remained intact. Even the squads were the same – minus the suspended players and coaches. Quick backtracking followed the initial barrage of penalties: the teams were expelled from the league for 1984-85 season and their records stripped, but they, under their new names, were back in the 1985-86 season. The suspended players were also rather quickly brought back to the game – the national team was suddenly without a bunch of its key players and the 1986 World Cup final were coming. For the interests of the country… bring the boys back. In a nut shell, the results were: some clubs lost their historic names, Levski lost the title, CSKA lost the Cup, two players lost lucrative foreign contracts, the hopes of the last team in the championship that they will remain since Levski and CSKA were ‘expelled’ were not fulfilled, two Second Division teams were expelled for bribery and game-fixing (this was formulated with the usual murky bullshit: ‘for infringement of rules for financial, spiritual and material stimulating of the teams of First and Second divisions’) and the Second Division was reduced from 22 to 20 teams as a result. Curiously, Levski was stripped from the championship title, but CSKA was not stripped from Soviet Army Cup, which they won this season. The whole thing looked like vendetta rather than an effort to punish disgraceful behavior and corrupt practices. However, there was and is confusion because of the penalties: after 1989, the real picture was immediately restored – Levski got back the title and CSKA the Cup, but that left Trakia (Botev) Plovdiv bitter, for they were announced champions in 1984-85. That is mostly statistical confusion, especially for foreigners. More about the scandalous final, triggering the Party wrath later.

Third Division. Experiments ended – for the moment, at least. No more B-teams of First Division clubs, but some age-restrictions remained. After the reorganization of Second Division a lot of former second-level clubs were playing here and naturally they were the leading teams.

Teams like Maritza (Plovdiv), with long second-division history and even some seasons in the top league. Maritza finished 4th in the South-Eastern zone of Third Division.

Third Division was structured geographically into 4 groups or zones of 16 teams each. The winners got promoted to Second Division and although many former second-level teams played here, only 6 teams were really strong this year. Which meant that battle for top position happened only in two of the zones – Bdin (Vidin) and Lokomotiv (Gorna Oryakhovitza) fought in the North-Western group and Dimitrovgrad (Dimitrovgrad) and Tundzha (Yambol) in the South-Eastern group. No other team came even close to the leaders in all zones. Lokomotiv (Gorna Oryakhovitza) prevailed in North-Western group with 46 points. Bdin was 2nd with 44 points. Teteven (Teteven) was 3rd with 36 points. Dorostol (Silistra) won the North-Eastern group with 44 points. Preslav (Preslav) finished 2nd with 37 points. Rilski sportist (Samokov) won the South-Western group with 42 points. Akademik (Sofia) was 2nd with 36 points. Dimitrovgrad (Dimitrovgrad) clinched 1st place in South-Eastern group with 49 points. Tundzha (Yambol) ended 2nd with 48 points and Metalik (Sopot) was 3rd with 39 points. All of the winners were former Second Division members, just returning where they came from.