Turkey I Division

First Division. 20 teams played in it, but the league was going to reduced to 19 the next season, so the bottom 4 were relegated and 3 teams promoted from second level. As it turned out, 3 teams were outsiders this time, so there was bitter fight only for escaping the dreadful 17th place – 6 teams tried hard to survive. At the top – no drama. One teams dominated the championship.
Zonguldakspor – last with 27 points and relegated.
Genclerbirligi – 19th with 30 points. Relegated.
Kocaelispor – 18th with 34 points and out. Given the performance of the last three teams, the reduction of the league was well justified.
The next 6 teams fought for survival and small differences at the end sealed their fate:
Denizlispor lost the battle for survival by a point – 17th with 45 points and once again going down to Second Division.
Caykur Rizepsor escaped – 16th with 46 points. Standing from left: Mustafa, İsa, Sinan, Oğuz, Muharrem, Jurgen Pahl. Crouching: B.Turgut, Hakan, Metin, K.Turgut, Harun.
Note the (West) German goalkeeper in the team – money was one big reason for improvement. With money – imports, increasingly stronger imports. Still most foreign players in Turkey were Yugoslavs, but now Germans were coming and not just to the big rich clubs.
Eskisehirspor – 15th with 46 points. Survived. Two Yugoslavs here: Adnan Medjedovic and Sedin Tanovic.
Boluspor – 14th with 46 points.
MKE Ankaragucu – 13th with 46 points. Better goal-difference placed them ahead of the other teams with 46 points, but consistency was a problem.
Altay – 12th with 48 points. As the other clubs from Izmir, Altay was struggling, but at least they played in the top league and managed to secure their place for at least one more season. But they were not in good shape – fighting for mere survival, not a promising sign.
Sakaryaspor – 11th with 51 points. Not an impressive season, but this club was never strong before anyway. Yet, this was their best season ever, as it turned out. Standing from left: Turhan Sofuoğlu, Selçuk Yiğitlik, Blerim Mula, Serdar Şenkaya, Neşet Muharremoğlu, Oğuz Çetin.
First row: Kemal Yıldırım, Aykut Kocaman, Özcan Kızıltan, Sinan Turhan, Turgay Poyraz.
Adana Demirspor – 10th with 52 points.
Sariyer – 9th with 52 points.
Fenerbahce – terrible season: 8th with 55 points. The disaster was calling for rapid big measures – evidently, having Yugoslav second raters (Pesic and Lukovcan) was no longer enough. So… the future will show what ambition and money can do.
Karsiyaka – 7th with 56 points. Strong season and it was matter of pride to finish ahead of Fenerbahce.
Trabzonspor – 6th with 57 points. Among the best, but the environment was changing and they seemingly were losing their edge.
Bursaspor – 5th with 57 points. They had similarly strong seasons before, but consistency was old problem and thus Bursaspor was not exactly considered among the leading the clubs. Stability was something to be proven yet.
Samsunspor – 4th with 60 points. Their finest season so far. Going up? Only the future can tell, but they appeared to be among the most stable provincial clubs for quite some time. Standing from left: Uğur Terzi, Muzaffer Badalıoğlu, Gijorgji Jovanovski, Zafer Çabalar, Burhanettin Beadini, Fatih Uraz.
First row: Orhan Kılınç, Erol Dinler, Halil İbrahim Eren, Mete Adanır, Emin Kar.
Malatyaspor – 3rd with 62 points. Great success for them – bronze medals! Their best so far, so the boys could be excused for lacking the strength to compete for the title.
Besiktas – 2nd with 78 points. Keeping strong – far too strong for the others in the league: they left Malatyaspor 14 points behind. Yet, in the same time they were too weak to challenge the leader… perhaps the lack of imported players made crucial difference.
In splendid form Galatasaray dominated the championship and won its 9th title, repeating their 1986-87 success. The champions won 27 games, tied 9 and lost only 2. Their goal-difference was great: +51! 86-35 – They were the best scorers in the championship by far and only 2 teams ended with better defensive record than them – a prove that attacking football was the best way to win. They did not permit even Besiktas to come close, leaving the nearest rival 12 points behind.
Perhaps the regular squad shows the secret of their success: a combination of best Turkish players (the great star and scorer Tanju Colak, for instance) and first-rate foreigners. Galatasaray had 3 well-known Yugoslavs, all former national team players – Cevat Prekazi, Mirsat Kovacevic and Simovic. This was even a bit too much and they either were unable to field them all in the same game, or one (most likely the Kosovar Prekazi) took Turkish citizenship. Galatasaray was already doing what some of the biggest European clubs were doing for years (Real Madrid, Barcelona, most recently Milan) – getting more foreigners than the rules permitted, so to have more options. That was the way to stay strong and not only in the domestic scene.

Turkey II Division

Turkey. Ranked 24th. 3 points for a win rule was introduced this season. Two teams were above the others, but only one dominated the championship. Fenerbahce and Trabzonspor dropped down the table. Turkish football was improving, but so far slowly.
Alanyaspor was one of the Third Division winners and going up to Second Division. According to this photo, of course – the problem with it is that Alanyaspor played in Group B of Second Division, just relegated from First Division and almost promoted back to it. Same team? A bit of mystery.
Second Division – 52 teams divided in three groups. The winners were directly promoted to top flight.
Group A – 18 teams played in it. One of the newcomers was top-league B-team: Trabzonspor B. The first time a B-team was introduced at this level. They did fine: 10th with 43 points. However, the championship was dominated by one team.
Bayburtspor played its second and last season in the Second Division – they finished last with 27 points.

Kayserispor was nothing special this season – 7th with 49 points.
Petrol Ofisi SK had surprisingly strong season, but unable to really push for promotion: 2nd with 59 points.
Adanaspor had no rival – 20 wins, 9 ties, 5 losses, 71-23 and 69 points. They won the championship and were promoted back to First Division..
Group B. 17 teams, 5 of them just promoted from third level. Two of the newcomers were immediately relegated. Two teams battled for promotion and the winner was a surprise.
Yeni Salihlispor – 7th with 47 points. Not everybody played on grass yet…
Inegolspor – 5th with 50 points.
DC Karabukspor – 4th with 50 points.
Antalyaspor fought for top position, but lost it and finished 3 points behind the winners. The same Antalyaspor as shown above?
Kahramanmarasspor clinched the title – they prevailed over Antalyaspor by 3 points: 16 wins, 10 ties, 6 losses, 63-35, 58 points. Unknown outside Turkey club with long and difficult name, which played their best season ever. Their victory was surprising, but well deserved success. Now debut in First Division was coming.
Group C. 17 teams, 2 of them dominating the championship, but really one was the leader. Perhaps the most former top league clubs here, but this did not make for dramatic and competitive season. The clubs of Izmir were struggling.
If Goztepe and Altinordu were at least in the upper half of the table, Izmirspor was really down on their luck – 15th with 36 points and relegated to third level.
Goztepe was the best of the Izmir clubs – 5th with 48 points.
Bakirkoyspor – 3rd , but very distant 3rd, with 51 points.
Zeytinburnuspor, just coming back from Third Division, was ambitious to climb back to complete recovery – but eventually failed and finished 2nd with 60 points. May be next year.
Konyaspor won the championship with 65 points: 19 wins, 8 ties, 5 losses, 49-23. Like Adanaspor, Konyaspor was going back to the familiar grounds of the top division.
So, good luck to the promoted winners – Adanaspor, Kahramanmarasspor, and Konyaspor.

Finland the Cup

The Cup final opposed OTP Oulu to Haka Valeakoski. Traditionally, Haka was the stronger team and so was during this season. They won the final, although not easily – 1-0.
Too bad for OTP Oulu.

15.10.1988, Olympic Stadium, Helsinki, Finland.
Suomen Cupin loppuottelu / Finnish Cup Final, FC Haka Valkeakoski v Oulun TyšvŠen Palloilijat.
Haka players celebrate with the trophy.
©Juha Tamminen

Haka (Valkeakoski) won the trophy and increased their record: now they had 9 Cups.

Finland

Finland. Ranked 23rd. Rules: full-league first stage and after that the top 6 teams went to the championship stage and the other 6 – to the relegation stage. Full records were carried over to the second stage, in which the teams in each group played once against the rest, so the total games of the season were 27. The last team in the relegation group was directly relegated, the next to last went to promotion/relegation play-off against the loser of the II Division promotion play-off. Which was played between the season winner and the 2nd team in the final table (Second Division played normal championship, no second stage). The winner of the promotion play-off was promoted, the loser went to the promotion/relegation play-off.
Jaro Pietarsaari finished first in Second Division and MyPa Myllykoski second, both teams with almost the same records – both with 29 points and 40 goals scored. However. Jaro had better defensive record and ended on top. The promotion play-off between the two ended 1-1 and only the penalty shoot-out decided the winner: it was Jaro 3-2.
Jaro ( Pietarsaari) was promoted to First Division.
MyPa went to the promotion/relegation play-off against KuPS (Kuopio) and lost 1-2 and 2-2. Thus, MyPa (Myllykoski) remained in Second Division.
First Division. Relegation Group – places of the teams in the opening stage will be brackets.

05.06.1988, Pori, Finland.
SM-sarja / Finnish League, Porin Pallo-Toverit v RoPS.
PPT, back row, left to right: Pasi Sulonen, Vesa Salmela, Olli Ceder, Vesa Rantanen, Jorma Heinonen, Juri Gavrilov.
Front row, l to r: Ari SuonpŠŠ, Seppo Lehtikangas, Janne Suokonautio, Seppo Sulonen, NŽstor Alfonso.
©Juha Tamminen

PPT Pori (12) – last and relegated with 7 points. They did not win even one match this season – all points came from ties.
KuPS Kuopio (11) – 5th with 20 points. They won the promotion/relegation play-off and kept their place in the league.
OTP Oulu (10) – 4th with 23 points.
Ilves Tampere (8) – 3rd with 25 points.
MP Mikkeli (9) – 2nd with 26 points.
KePS Kemi (7) – 1st with 28 points.
Championship Group:
Haka Valeakoski (6) – last with 27 points.

24.07.1988, Kupittaa, Turku
SM-sarja, Turun Palloseura v Helsingin Jalkapalloklubi
TPS:n aloituskokoonpano, takarivi vasemmalta oikealle: Petri Sulonen, Ari Heikkinen, Esa Johansson, Juha Halonen, Tomi Jalo & Dan-Ola Eckerman.
EturivissЉ vasemmalta oikealle: Kimmo Lipponen, Juha Laaksonen Jyrki HЉnnikЉinen, Marko KљykkЉ & Marko RajamЉki.
©Juha Tamminen

TPS Turku (5) – 5th with 30 points. Standing from left: Petri Sulonen, Ari Heikkinen, Esa Johansson, Juha Halonen, Tomi Jalo, Dan-Ola Eckerman. First row: Kimmo Lipponen, Juha Laaksonen Jyrki Hannikainen, Marko Kaykka, Marko Rajamaki.
Reipas Lahti (3) – 4th with 30 points. Bright young Jari Litmanen was playing fro them, which is even a bit strange – why the talent was not in the stronger neighbours Kuusysi?
RoPS Rovaniemi (4) – 3rd with 31 points. Foreign players were becoming the norm in Finland – not any big names, not even just recognizable names, but imports were becoming vastly used in the second half of the 1980s – almost in every European country.

03.07.1988, Pori.
SM-sarja, PPT – Kuusysi.
FC Kuusysi, aloituskokoonpano, takana vasemmalta: Ilkka Remes, Mika Viljanen, Hannu JŠntti, Sami Vehkakoski, Kalle Lehtinen, Jari Rinne.
EdessŠ vasemmalta: Juha Annunen, Keijo Kousa, Ismo Korhonen, Timo Reinikainen, Sixten Bostršm.
©Juha Tamminen

Kuusysi Lahti (2) – 2nd with 34 points. Finland’s climbing up the European table was largely due to them and Kuusysi was staying strong, but this season they did not challenge the leaders at all.

HJK Helsinki (1) – comfortable leaders all the was. They finished with 20 wins, 3 ties, 4 losses, 55-28 goal-difference, and 43 points. They were leading by 5 points at the end of the first and increased it to 9 by the end of the final stage. Standing from left: Antti Heinola, Vesa Vasara, Markku Kanerva, Mika Kottila, Antti Niemi, Jari Europaeus. Crouching: Tommi Granlund, Ismo Lius, Ari Hjelm, Ari Tegelberg, Marko Helin.
HJK won a second title in a row, making their total 16.

Bulgaria the Cups

The Cups. Nobody paid attention to the Soviet Army Cup anymore, but it was played and it was a trophy to be won, if one wished so. Vitosha reached the final and met there Cherno more (Varna). On the road Vitosha eliminated CFCA Sredetz in the 1/8 finals – 3-0. The formula of the tournament was changed after the Soviet Army Cup became secondary tournament and benefited smaller clubs – which largely explains why Second Division teams reached the final in the recent years, Cherno more included (in the old days it was unthinkable Levski and CSKA to meet at 1/8 finals – in the 1987-88 edition 2 Third Division teams played at the ¼ finals). Anyhow, a final is a final, a trophy – a trophy, and class -class. Cherno more wanted to win, but Vitosha was only classier team – as rule of thumb, for Levski was important to beat Cherno more out of spite: since they were Army club and for years served the needs of CSKA against Levski. Old mutual hatred fuels clashes between Levski and Cherno more and they are difficult games, for Cherno more always tries to play even above their abilities. Vitosha, however, won 2-0 – two goals scored by Nasko Sirakov, who captained Vitosha this day.
Cherno more (Varna) with the silver medals as losing finalists. Crouching from left: Georgi Stoychev, Ivan Stoyanov, Nikola Nikolov, Ivan Petrov, Milen Bakardzhiev, Stefan Bachev, Tinko Vazharov, Ognyan Radev, Boyan Christov.
Standing: Bilyal Bilyalov (at time renamed to Bilyan Bilyanov – no Turks in Bulgaria, ordered the Communist Party) assistant coach, Yordan Filipov, Todor Marev, Christo Kotev, Todor Atanassov, Georgi Kostov, Krassimir Lechev, Yulian Christov, Bozhil Kolev – coach.
To a point, too bad Cherno more lost – it would have been great if Second Division team won the Soviet Army Cup. It would have been great Cherno more to win a trophy at last (this was their second final and they lost the first in 1985 to CSKA 0-4). It would have been great Yordan Filipov to win one more trophy at 42; it would have been great Todor Marev to win a trophy at all, even at his twilight as a player. But the opponent was objectively much stronger and there was kind of justice too: Cherno more let CSKA to beat them easily in 1985, so now was payback time – another lost final, even if they made an effort to win.
As for Vitosha (Levski) – the Soviet Army Cup did not mean much, except for making a double. This is not a photo from the final, but from the end of the season and they were posing as champions, but never mind. Crouching from left: N. Sirakov, K. Vangelov, N. Iliev, G. Yordanov, S. Nachev, Kr. Koev, S. Sofroniev – masseur, E. Velev, B. Iskrenov.
Standing: V. Metodiev – coach, Chr. Ayandelev – vice-chairman of the club, E. Spassov, B. Mikhailov, D. Markov, P. Petrov, St. Georgiev, G. Slavchev, D. Gospodinov, P. Kurdov, Vl. Delchev, R. Krumov, G. Iliev – doctor, St. Aladzhov – assistant coach.
Thus, Vitosha (Levski) won its 17th Soviet Army Cup.
The Bulgarian Cup – that was the real trophy and a good chance for Vitosha to make a treble. Against them – the eternal foe CFCA Sredetz (CSKA). And they destroyed Vitosha 4-1. Stoichkov scored an early goal, but Nikolay Iliev equalized after a few minutes. Perhaps the match was decided near the end of the first half, when Lyuboslav Penev made it 2-1 CFCA Sredetz. The ‘blues’ was unable to equalize later and in the last 5 minutes of the match Vitanov scored 2 more goals. With them or without them, the match was already decided.
Vitosha was unable to win a treble and lost badly the Cup final in the bargain, but there was little worry about it – much more important was the victory in the championship. As it is always with great derbies, victory can go either way. A lost match, whatever what kind, is sour. Yet, the joy at the end of the season prevailed.
CFCA Sredetz (Sofia) won the Cup and the devastating result boosted pride. Sitting from left: Emil Kostadinov, Aleksandar Aleksandrov, Nedyalko Mladenov, Lyuboslav Penev, Sasho Borissov.
Middle row: Stoil Trankov – assistant coach, Roumen Apostolov, Petar Vitanov, Alekandar Chavdarov, Dimitar Penev – coach, Stoyan Stoyanov, Roumen Stoyanov, Krassimir Dossev, Petar Zhekov – assistant coach.
Top row: Krassimir Bezinski -captain, Doncho Donev, Christo Stoichkov, Ivaylo Kirov, Yordan Murlev.
As much as CSKA and its fans dismiss Cups and prefer to think only of championship titles, this vicory was important and sweet to them – first of all, the arch-enemy was beaten, a revenge for losses not only in this season. Second, the season ended with a trophy. Third, with the introduction of this tournament, new emphasis was put on: CSKA so far won 4 official Bulgarian Cups (5, if 1985 is counted) and Levski – 3. Since this Cup was the official national Cup, now CSKA was leading in both championship titles and Cups – before, at the times the Soviet Army Cup was the national Cup, CSKA trailed Levski. Now – they were the absolute leaders. Then again, all depends of counting… whether one starts with 1945 of starts with 1981… and in 1988 even the Federation could not make head of tale of that – both tournaments overlapped and would have been unthinkable to offend the USSR by entirely dismissing the Cup they provided. Such a limbo… but CFCA Sredetz was happy.

Bulgaria I Division

First Division. Back to the familiar ‘normal’… a battle between Levski and CSKA, no matter what their current names, and the rest far behind. Perhaps Etar (Veliko Tirnovo) sums the situation: Georgy Vassilev was already recognized as one of the leading coaches in Bulgaria and he had Krassimir Balakov, Trifon Ivanov, Illian Kiryakov, and Boncho Genchev, the first three already playing for tha national team. Tzanko Tzvetanov was just added to the squad from the Etar’s youth team. Etar played formidably at home – 10 wins and 5 ties. Away… a total disaster: 14 lost games and 1 tie. The worst away record in the league! That was the big return to the old tradition… the two grands dominating and the rest playing with care only at home, looking to secure mid-table position and nothing more. Why bother when the top is reserved and nobody else could win anything? Why bother when your efforts will be cut off by legal or illegal means? The two grands had too powerful official backup to dare challenging them… and the whole game suffered as a result. But the game was played, it had its ups and downs and interesting moments.
Spartak (Pleven) – last with 21 points and relegated. True, the peak of the team passed about 3 years ago, but looking at the squad it is hard to believe they were so bad. Top row from left: Marius Urukov, Harry Kazakov, Angel Marinov, Georgi Tzvetanov, Blagovest Petkov, Veni Nikolov, Kalin Pekhlivanski.
Middle row: Dinko Dermedzhiev – coach, Dimitar Todorov, Robert Petrov, Yulian Garev, Emil Minchev, Aleksander Markov, Vachko Marinov – assistant coach.
Front: Emil Tzvetanov, Milko Gavrailov, Plamen Getov, Marcho Bogdanov, Ruzhdi (at the time renamed Ruzhen) Kerimov, Metodi Tomanov, Zhivko Gospodinov.
Plamen Getov one of the best and perhaps the most entertaining Bulgarian player of the 1980s, Zhivko Gospodinov, who along with Getov played at he 1986 World Cup, Ruzhdi Kerimov and Aleksandar Markov, former national teams players, when playing for CSKA and Lokomotiv (Sofia). Plenty of experienced players: Tomanov (formerly of CSKA), Bogdanov (formerly of Lokomotiv Sofia), Kazakov, Nikolov, Garev; promising young talent – Urukov and Petkov; a coach already considered among the best – Dinko Dermendzhiev – with well respected experienced assistant… hardly the names to go down. Most likely the problem of Spartak was that they built their strong team of the first half of the 1980s on a core of experienced players from elsewhere – that approach continued, replacing aging players with other veterans from out of town. Such approach in entirely risky and backfires in a long run: new recruits tend to become older, burnt out, and of lesser quality. Along them local classy players age and settle in comfortable mediocrity – 7-8 years ago both goalkeepers, Kazakov and Nikolov, were hailed as incredibly promising, possibly even a national team material. Right now they were just experienced and somewhat reliable, but not great. And nothing could shake up nether them, nor the club – they were not yet considered too old, so the club did not see a reason for risking replacing them with unknown talent. As for those coming from other cities – they were not going to stay, they were only temporary with the club and there was no way to pursue long-term rebuilding with them. Point in case: the squad in the next season – not a single ‘mercenary’ remained after Spartak was relegated. Even Plamen Getov left.
Chernomoretz (Bourgas) – 15th with 21 points. Essentially, the same case as Spartak – the team aged and the club missed the right moment for rebuilding. Unlike Spartak, Chernomoretz depended on their own talent – but on one generation, which reached its peak compactly. Since nobody was about 30 at the time of team’s peak, no radical measures were taken – the players were still young enough – and deterioration was slow – losing players one by one, but still it looked the group was big and sufficient enough. Well, the crash eventually happens – and Chernomoretz was relegated.
Vratza (Vratza) – Botev (Vratza) was renamed at that time – 14th with 24 points. Sitting from left: Kraev, Danov, Voynov, Tzvetanov, Radoslavov, Strashimirov, Emilov, Toshkov.
Middle row: M. Shaldupov – assistant coach, Nakev, Iliev, Garev, Petrov, Valov, Ya. Gelov – coach.
K. Kostov – rehabilitation specialist, Konov, Yu. Nikolov, Lyubenov, Nikolov, Kirchev, Marinov, Tzvetkov, Mironov – doctor.
Although they had strong core (Danov, Valov, Voynov, Toshkov), the team was in decline for quite some time. This, slipping down the table. This season was nothing new and the rot was going to continue for sure – Toshkov and Danov were already old, Valov and Voynov were almost surely to move to bigger clubs (and all this happened – Danov went to play abroad, Valov and Voynov moved to CSKA).
Lokomotiv (Gorna Oryahovitza) – 13th with 25 points. Sitting from left: Levent Gavazov, Tzenko Gavazov, Nako Doychev, Angel Minchev, Boris Iliev, Lyubomir Russev, Dimitar Balabanov.
Middle row: Ivan Vassilev – assistant coach, Sasho Mikhailov, Petar Bikarski, Angel Chervenkov, Dobromir Zhechev – coach, Valeri Ganev, Nikola Velkov, Dimitar Pechikamakov, Zhivko Zhekov – doctor.
Top row: Teodossi Sotirov – administrator, Kiril Rabchev, Valeri Milkov, Manol Manolov, Christo Kanchev, Toshko Arssov, Assen Velinov, Bogomil Bratoev – masseur.
Not a great finish, but this team deserves a special note: a nice story of modest newcomers. Lokomotiv played briefly in the First Division in the arly 1960s, but they essentially ‘eternal’ Second Division club. Probably rightly – as a team from smallish city, they were for ever in the shadow of the club of the regional capital, in their case Etar (Veliko Tirnovo). Hard to become ambitious when your best players will inevitably go to the regional center. Hard to be ambitious with modest budget and located in distant unattractive town. Their promotion came as a surprise – Dobromir Zhechev took coaching the team in the previous year and his own stated goal was 6th place. However, the team performed very well in the fall and new goal seemed possible – and eventually achieved. Zhechev knew that he does not great players, so he emphasized on collective work, not mentioning anybody above the rest of the team. No stars. The approach worked fine and was continued in the First Division – and worked again. However, the team needed reinforcements for the top league and it was done somewhat. Considering the modest means of the club and its location – it was modest reinforcement and also unusual. First of all, Lokomotiv lost key players immediately after winning promotion to the regional center: the future 1994 hero Boncho Genchev and Georgi Georgiev. But dealing with regional centers worked both ways – true, the center was taking young talent and giving back no longer needed veterans, but veterans were often helpful. Kiril Rabchev came earlier and was instrumental in winning the promotion. Nikola Velkov also joined Lokomotiv for the top league season. That were the typical movements between regional clubs in which the coach probably had very little to say. However, coaches – especially coaches from Sofia – usually brought players from their old clubs to their new ones. Dobromir Zhechev , spending years as player and coach with Levski-Spartak, did something unusual – players from Sofia were recruited, but none originated with Levski. Boris Iliev and Nako Doychev played for Lokomotiv (Sofia), Angel Chervenkov, Toshko Arssov, and Nikola Velkov used to play for CSKA. True, not everybody was brought by Zhechev – some were already there when he took coaching the team – and none was great player, but that was perhaps even most interesting – that he used discarded players from other clubs, but not from Levski, not a single one! Perhaps that was the secret of the successful season in the top league: players from Sofia were typically jaded. Better take those, who were modest and rather desperate to play, for they failed to succeed in their former clubs (and Velkov and Arssov, both with short spells with CSKA, were not from Sofia, but provincials). Giving chance to modest players worked great – Rabchev was practically reborn at 34, Arssov, Doychev, Iliev were back in First Division after considered hopeless some time back, Velkov was happy to play in the top league at the end of his career, Chervenkov had a good chance to be noticed again, after CSKA let him go for better or at least more promising players. There was disruptive ‘star’ behaviour splitting the team apart and the goal to stay in First Division was achieved. Also a good foundation for further team building was firmly established. Sometimes less is more, but Zhechev did very thorough work with the team , thinking only how to use best limited resources and finding the best concept for solid future.
Lokomotiv was the pleasant story of the season and had a good prospect for the future.
Pirin (Blagoevgrad) – 12th with 25 points.
Minyor (Pernik) – 11th with 25 points.
Spartak (Varna) – 10th with 26 points.
Etar (Veliko Tirnovo) – 9th with 26 points.
Sliven (Sliven) – 8th with 27 points.
Lokomotiv (Plovdiv) – 7th with 28 points.
Beroe (Stara Zagora) – 6th with 29 points.
Lokomotiv (Sofia) – 5th with 32 points.
Slavia (Sofia) – 4th with 38 points. Sitting from left: Petar Bozhkov, Mladen Radkov, Miroslav Mironov, Ivan Marinov, Roumen Bayrev, Pavlin Dimitrov, Valeri Grekov.
Middle row: Simeon Simeonov – assistant caoch, Plamen Tachev, Ivan Khaydarliev, Oleg Bazilevich 0 coach, Iliya Velichkov, Petar Karadaliev, Yordan Kostov, Georgi Kharalampiev – assistant coach.
Third row: Georgi Iliev, Plamen Simeonov, Mario Kalpushkov, Ivaylo Venkov, Antonio Ananiev, Dinko Gosposdinov, Petar Aleksandrov.
For the first time since 1970 there was a foreign coach in Bulgaria – Slavia hired Oleg Bazilevich. Back in 1975 he was considered the mastermind of Dinamo (Kiev) with Lobanovsky more like assistant coach. However, time passed and now Bazilevich was almost forgotten and everybody knew and praised Lobanovsky. Slavia, hoping the stabilize its performance at least, hired the Soviet specialist – no miracle happened and Bazilevich was out at the end of the season, only to find himself at the helm of the Bulgarian national team.
Trakia (Plovdiv) – 3rd with 39 points. Top row from left: Vangel Delev – steward, Ivan Glukhchev – coach, Ivan Mikhailov, Todor Zaytzev, Trifon Pachev, Dimitar Vichev, Slavcho Khorozov, Mincho Minchev, Nikola Dafinski – assistant coach.
Middle row: Lyuben Blagoev – masseur, Ivaylo Stoynev, Zapryan Rakov, Milan Karatanchev, Boris Khvoynev, Simeon Kostadinov, Ivan Kochev, Georgi Chakarov, Lyubomir Dobrev – doctor, Petar Baldzhiev – secretary.
Sitting: Blagoy Blangev, Antim Pekhlivanov, Atanas Pashev, Georgi Georgiev, Petar Zekhtinski, Marin Bakalov, Dimitar Mladenov.
CFCA Sredetz (Sofia) – the current name of CSKA. Sitting from left: Kostadin Yanchev, Aleksandar Aleksandrov, Nedyalko Mladenov, Christo Stoichkov, Lachezar Tanev, Lyuboslav Penev, Krassimir Bezinski.
Middle row: Stoil Trankov – assistant coach, Emil Kostadinov, Aleksandar Chavdarov, Iliya Dyakov, Dimitar Penev – coach, Roumen Stoyanov, Petar Vitanov, Stoyan Stoyanov, Petar Zhekov – assistant coach.
Top row: Bozhin Bozhinov – administrator, Aleksandar Lyubenov – masseur, Sasho Borissov, Roumen Apostolov, Preslav Getov, Ivaylo Kirov, Krassimir Dossev, Yordan Murlev, Petar Chervenkov – doctor.
CFCA Sredetz – more often written CFKA Sredets – won the first half of the season, but its small lead was beaten in the spring and they ended 2 points behind the champions. It was the old CSKA vs Levski battle and the Army lost. They finished with 46 points and to a large degree the championship was decided in the direct clashes between the two old rivals – 2-2 and 2-3. The coaching abilities of Dimitar Penev are more than debatable, but two things cannot be denied: he had a sharp eye for young talent and was easy going, letting his players to do pretty much all they wanted on and off the field. His lax approach to discipline was working, for it was attuned to the times – the players in the second half of the 80s wanted freedom in everything, to do whatever they were pleased. Penev, however, lament to this very day the disaster of 1985, leaving – according to his mind – the club impoverished and unable to build strong squad. This may have been true for one season, right after the Party punishment of Levski and CSKA, but no longer. True, for a short time CSKA lost its power to get whoever they wanted and also lost its attractiveness to provincial players, and also some players left as soon as CSKA was paying equally or less than other clubs, but the biggest losses were of players going to play abroad. Aging players, as it was, so it was a matter of building a new team anyway. A shaky time, which is shown in the squad of 1987-88: unbalanced team – incredibly strong attack (Tanev, Stouchkov, Kostadinov, Penev, Kirov and the new recruit from Dimitrovgrad Doncho Donev), but weak defense and particularly goalkeepers. The strikers scored most goal this season – 76 – but the title was lost by the defensive line. The problem was serious enough, if one looks at two central defenders: Sasho Borissov was brought from Spartak (Varna) – a well known name, but late bloomer, who was already over 30. Yordan Murlev was quite a surprise, largely because he was out of the picture for a long time – he was one of the Pirin (Blagoevgrad) players involved in the rape scandal in the early 1980s. They were all sentenced to jail and whether they actually served time or not (at least one of the group seemingly never ended in prison, for he was playing in the 4th Division) is not important. The fact is they were all banished from playing football for life – but such punishment was really a joke (well, Stoichkov was banished for life in 1985). What was real was that those Pirin players disappeared from top football and the sudden reemergence of Murlev in red jersey only speaks of desperation: why hiring a player out of big football for years? He did not establish himself, though, and the next season was playing for Vitosha (Levski), but still his presence showed a big problem without ready solution in defense. And it was absolutely certain that the current captain and (mostly) left fullback Krassimir Bezinski and right fullback Nedyalko Mladenov will go to foreign clubs soon. It was more desperate between the goalposts: Georgi Velinov went to play abroad and already mentioned Yordan Filipov was let go to Cherno more (Varna). Young Roumen Apostolov was brought in from Spartak (Varna), but neither he, nor long-time back-up Krassimir Dossev were convincing. Season over and the problems were solved by the old familiar Army way: Dossev, Borissov and Murlev were out; 4 national team players were in – the goalkeeper of Vratza Iliya Valov, the center-defender of Etar Trifon Ivanov, the midfielder of Trakia Georgi Georgiev, and the phenomenal striker-midfielder Plamen Getov from Spartak (Pleven). And the great defender Georgi Dimitrov was back from ill-fated spell in France. Bezinski and N. Mladenov were kept at least for one more season and add one more fullback, who was part of the 1986 World Cup team, Iliya Dyakov (Dyakov reached the national team as Second Division player and practically was a debutante in the top league – but he never reached expectations and today is almost entirely forgotten). Anyway, all that is for the next season – currently CSKA had problems and to a point, those problems made them 2nd.
Vitosha – the current name of Levski-Spartak, or Levski (Sofia) – won the title. Their 15th! Depending on who recognize what – their first victory since 1984 or 1985. At the time, they were still stripped by the Communist Party from their 1985 title, thus, the total was 15 and not 16. Sitting from left: Georgi Iliev – doctor, Krassimir Koev, Kiril Vangelov, Sasho Nachev, Petar Kurdov, Georgi Yordanov, Dinko Gospodinov, Stoil Georgiev, Sofroni Sofroniev – masseur.
Middle row: Vassil Metodiev – coach, Nasko Sirakov, Nikolay Iliev, Dimitar Markov, Christo Ayandelev – deputy chairman of the club, Bozhidar Iskrenov, Petar Petrov – captain, Stefan Kolev, Stefan Aladzhov – assistant coach.
Third row: Emil Velev, Borislav Mikhailov, Roumen Kitanov, Rossen Krumov, Vesselin Lichev – assistant coach, Georgi Donkov, Vlado Delchev, Georgi Slavchev.
Plamen Nikolov and Emil Spassov were also used.
The key for the success was the great coach Vassil Metodiev – after the big tremor in 1985 the suspended players rather quickly were restored, but Metodiev was more difficult case: he had frictions with the state powers well before 1985, the biggest was in 1978-79, when he was coaching Lokomotiv (Sofia) and eliminated Dinamo (Kiev) against orders to lose. His suspension for life in 1985 was going to be dismissed – since the players were restored, he was going to be too and he was, but coming back to Levski (Vitosha) was more difficult. Finally, he was back and his presence was immediately felt – and the title won. To a point, Vitosha (Levski) was in better position than CSKA – most players were club-products, all of them fierce fans of Levski since early childhood and born and raised in Sofia. Nobody left the club even when it was badly shaken and money were scarce. Moreover, the youth system continued to produce promising youth, so the inability of grabbing provincial stars was not a big problem. What was missing was Metodiev – once he was brought back, everything clicked again. But the future was not very bright: clearly, the stars were going to play abroad and soon (Kurdov, Sirakov, Iskrenov, Mikhailov, Petrov) and behind them were mostly inexperienced youngsters. There was more talent in the second team – Zdravko Zdravkov, Velko Yotov, Iliya Gruev, Ivaylo Yotov – but it was clear that the lack of experience and still fragile psyches would be negative factor. But the future was not present concern – the present was joy. Victorious again and not juts one trophy.

Bulgaria II Division

Second Division. The scandalous events of the season were already mentioned, so what else? One team dominated the championship and for the second promotion there was battle between few teams, which, scheming or not, fought to the end. The rest was somewhat restoring the old order after the reduction of the Second Division – 4 long time members came back from third level and performed quite well. The smaller Second Division was to a point predictable: teams from small towns had hard time competing with economically more powerful cities and were going down. Traditional football centers remained quite solid. One of the newly relegated teams from the top league ended at the very bottom of the league. The last 4 teams of the 20-team league were relegated, the top 2 promoted. As a general observation, Second Division appeared somewhat weaker than before – contrary to the intentions of reduction.
Dimitrovgrad (Dimitrovgrad) finished last. The previous season they played in First Division, now they going down to the Third… To a large degree, Dimitrovgrad was paying heavy price for going up – they even surprised themselves, when got promoted to the top league 2 years earlier. Hasty recruitment of better players was done in order of competing with the best, but there was no rhyme or reason to that, it was not real selection, but rather getting whoever was available and willing to join. Such a rag-tag squad failed and was immediately relegated. The new recruits departed right away and Dimitrovgrad slipped further down.
Neftohimik (Bourgas) ended 19th and relegated – their attempt to fix escape by illegal means was justifiably punished.
Balkan (Botevgrad) – 18th and relegated. An example of a club from a small town – they were unable to compete in the smaller Second Division.
Rozova dolina (Kazanlik) – 17th and relegated. The same case as Balkan.
Rila (Stanke Dimitrov – today Dupnitza) survived at 16th place with 33 points. Now, that was well-known Marek, renamed. If Neftohimik’s scheme was not caught, they would have been 16th and relegated. Rila was unable to rebuild after their great squad of the 1970s aged and that was almost fatal – but they were hanging on. Still using the remains of their great squad, now reduced to two players – the goalkeeper Stoyan Stoyanov (38 years old) and midfielder Dimitar Dimitrov (34 years old). Coached by the captain of the great team Sasho Pargov.
Ludogoretz (Razgrad) – 15th with 33 points. Their usual insignificant performance. And their typical mediocrity makes difficult establishing the proper season of the photo: it could be from the previous season, for Nikola Kovachev did not coach them in 1987-88. Then again… who knows when the photo was actually taken. One thing was sure: nobody would imagine this club playing top league football, let alone dominating Bulgarian football for years.
Haskovo (Haskovo) – 14th with 34 points. Depending on some remains of their First Division team, but nothing much.
Spartak (Plovdiv) – 13th with 36 points. It is quite amazing that this club had been Bulgarian champion in the early 1960s, but Spartak cannot be judged harshly: soon after winning the title they were amalgamated with Botev (Plovdiv) into Trakia and seized to exist. Spartak was restored only a few years ago, starting from lower levels and slowly climbing up. Presently, establishing themselves in the Second Division was the main goal, so avoiding relegation was quite fine. It was not easy for them – the building process depended to what players the big clubs in Plovidv (Trakia and Lokomotiv) did not need and such players were great, nor many. Aging Krassimir Manolov (who made his name in the 1970s with Lokomotiv Plovdiv, Akademik Sofia, and Trakia Plovdiv) was their star and that says it all: one well-known player at the end of his career.
Akademik (Svishtov) – 12th with 37 points. Not a factor and suffering in the new officially proffesional football: their main attraction to out-of-town players was academic degree in economics. Not many footballers were interested in that and in times when one can get good money legally, even less would go for small pay and a degree. Akademik still attracted a few well known names, but they were becoming a rag-tag team.
Tundzha (Yambol) – 11th with 37 points. Once upon a time they played in the First Division, but the early 1970s were long gone, even not remembered. The new Second Division had no place for them – Tundzha went down to third level, when the reorganization took place and now was coming back, just promoted. Hence, not bad ending in their first season in the smaller Second Division.
Osam (Lovech) – 10th with 38 points. Well, nothing new… they were generally mid-table Second Division club and adjusted to the very same existence as before. Should be mentioned, however, that Petar Khoubchev was still playing for them (at 24 years, he had 213 games and 23 goals for Osam) – and apparently attracted no interest not only of any big club, but even of smaller top-league teams. Seems unbelievable today – one of the 1994 heroes, internationally well known name, not even playing a single match in the Bulgarian First Division in 1988. Playing for rather mediocre second-division club satisfied with mid-table position.
Dobrudzha (Dobrich) – 9th with 38 points. Well, similar to Osam.
Madara (Shumen) – 8th with 40 points. That was the new name of Shumen (Shumen), a team which played in the top league no long ago. However, the reorganization of the Second Division expelled them to third level from which they were just promoted. Locally, people believe Madara was denied promotion this season, but they were also caught in fixing the game with Neftohimik, so… Whatever the myth, Madara did not have strong team, largely depending on remains of their first-division squad. This was also the last season they played under the name Madara – they became Shumen again for the next season.
Vihren (Sandanski) – 7th with 41 points. Not bad at all, yet, nothing special – some former minor players of Pirin (Blagoevgrad) were the only recognizable names, the father of Dimitar Berbatov among them.
Yantra (Gaborovo) – 6th with 41 points. One more teams returning from Third Division. Not a bad season, but going up was not an aim yet.
Bdin (Vidin) – 5th with 41 points. Like Osam and Dobrudzha, they were quite happy to keep relatively good place in the league and nothing more.
Hebar (Pazardzhik) – 4th with 44 points. The best of the newly promoted teams, but like the others Hebar was essentially second-division member, which suffered from the reduction of the second level. Yet, they not only tried to reestablish themselves, but fought for further promotion. Lost the battle this time, but the team was on ascend – unlike most of the current second-division members.
Arda (Kardhzali) – 3rd with 45 points. Now, that was a great surprise: Arda played in the Second Division for ages, but they were usually at the bottom of the table, concerned with escaping relegation. A club not expected to be at the top at all – but they were and fought for promotion, which was lost, according to the rumors, by biased refereeing. Thanks to that, they ended 3rd only on 2 goals worse goal-difference. Speculations of political scheming or just ordinary corruption against them aside, Arda had quite poor squad for playing in the top league and given the sorry example of Dimitrovgrad, perhaps it was better they were not promoted. Yet, this was memorable season for the club and its fans – their best in history at the time, in fact. From that angle – too bad they were not promoted.
Dunav (Rousse) clinched 2nd place and was promoted. Like Arda, they finished with 45 points and goal-difference decided who goes up and who stays. Minimal advantage for Dunav – 2 goals! Dramatic promotion, but severely tainted by suspect activities in their favour. Anyhow, the squad – sitting from left: V. Kulinov, A. Nankov, L. Bayraktarov, D. Angelov, N. Borissov, R. Sabotinov.
Middle row: I. Ivanov – assistant coach, Iv. Penev, M. Stoyanov, N. Boyanov – captain, B. Bogomilov, Y. Dimitrov, K. Nakov, T. Velev – coach.
Third row: L. Brankov, K. Kolev, Z. Machev, Il. Kirchev, D. Enchev, P. Voynov.
Allarmingly poor squad… practically only Valery Kulinov and Yordan Dimitrov were somewhat familiar names, but both were also regarded as unfulfilled promises, rather quickly dismissed by CSKA. Of course, today one can point at Anatoly Nankov, but he played for the national team years later – in 1987-88 he was just young broom, a promising player and no more than that. The trouble was that for a long time no significant talent emerged in Rousse and Dunav had to recruit players from elsewhere – and every year ‘the mercenaries’ were of lower and lower quality. Suffice to point out Lyuben Brankov, the back-up goalkeeper of the wonderful team Marek had in the second half of the 1970s: he very rarely appeared for Marek and now, already 32 years old, he had less than 100 games combined (in First and Second Division) – 58 in the top league (most of them for Dunav) and 29 in the Second Division. And this was his last season for Dunav (only to be replaced with a similar keeper). Dunav’s situation in the 1980s was meandering between first and second division – very short spells in the top, practically immediate relegation, and longish spells in the second level, eventually ending with difficult and, on this occasion, suspect promotion. The future did not seem bright at all – it was almost sure that Dunav would not stay long in First Division.
Cherno more (Varna) easily won the championship with 50 points. 20 wins, 10 ties, 8 losses, 57-36 goal-difference. Perhaps not very exiting record, but they finished 5 ahead of Dunav and Arda and were practically unchallenged during the season by anybody, so they had the opportunity to relax now and then not caring for a particular match. Sitting from left: T. Atanassov, Iv. Stoyanov, M. Bakardzhiev, Chr. Kotev, T. Vazharov.
Middle row: D. Vankov – masseur, B. Bilyalov – assistant coach, G. Kostov, St. Bachev, Yu. Christov, Iv. Petrov, O. Radev, Y. Filipov, B. Kolev – coach.
Top row: G. Ganchev – steward, T. Marev – captain, N. Nikolov, G. Stoychev, B. Christov, Kr. Lechev, N. Kapandzhiev – doctor.
The best rounded and quite equal to mid-table top league squad, but not without problems. The former star of CSKA Bozhil Kolev obviously did good work at the helm of his original club, where he ended his playing career as well, but it was not easy ride. Cherno more had difficult time recovering from the bribing scandal few years ago, when they lost half of their team to suspensions. With clipped wings, Cherno more suffered and eventually was relegated. Rebuilding was still going on and the squad was still shaky – a backbone of esteemed, but dangerously aging veterans (Todor Marev – 34, Todor Atanassov – 34, Ivan Petrov – 33), practically no solid player at prime age (only Milen Bakardzhiev – 27 – and he was second-rater) and various promising, but inexperienced youngsters, whose future development was yet unknown. Goalkeeping was severe problem, solved for the moment by rather desperate mean: Yordan Filipov was invited. He was 42 years old! About 5 years older than former CSKA teammate and now his coach Bozhil Kolev. Sure, Filipov was more than well-respected name – a part of the winning teams of CSKA for a long, long time (lastly winning the title with them in 1986-87, as a reserve), national team regular for years, champion of Malta, when he played there. Amazingly long career, which unjustly was not celebrated and somewhat kept in obscurity – at the time, he was a record maker: most likely the oldest player ever in the history of the country. By 1988 his daughter was champion of Bulgaria and national team in vollyball – and he was still active player! And winner as well – it may have been only Second Division, but it also one more title for him. Plus a chance to add a Cup, for Cherno more had really successful season. All that was great, but age is age… and for Cherno more to look for a player over 40 meant big problem without solution (a bit ahead: for the next season Filipov remained and one more veteran was added to the team, the new addition really revamped from dusty obscurity – in the early 1970s Kostadin Kostadinov was part of talented and successful Bulgarian under-20 national team. Naturally, a good career was expected of him, but that failed to materialize. Kostadinov was for awhile a reserve keeper of his original club, Spartak Varna, and then disappeared in small Second Division clubs. It was big desperation to call a 32-years old keeper with a total of 38 First Division appearances in hope of replacing a 42-years old. Needless to say Kostadinov did not make a sensation). Of course, looming retirements of the key players were a problem too – personal ambition to end their careers playing in the top league perhaps insured at least one more season depending on the veterans, but longer? If Todor Marev impressed from the very start, currently no young player was showing leadership potential. Todor Marev and Ivan Petrov played for the national team – none of the youngsters now seemed to be potential national team player. They even did not look like becoming sturdy dependable players like Todor Atanassov. Rebuilding was not completed, there were gaps to fill, new leaders to discover somehow and somewhere to create a new strong skeleton of the team. Cherno more deserved to play in the First Division, but the future was not exactly bright.

Bulgaria III Division

Bulgaria. Ranked 22nd. Observe: the heroes of the 1994 World Cup were not only playing, but were pretty much all of them national team regulars. With all that talent – 22nd! The key for such a mystery was the system… no matter what the Communist Party proclaimed and ordered, the problems originated from its very rule and they were deeply entrenched. So, in 1985 the Party ‘destroyed’ the most powerful clubs, demanded reforms – one of them reorganizing the clubs into professional clubs and the players became officially professionals. So what? By 1987 the ministry of defense and the Police were again running the biggest clubs, reestablishing old practices and dominance. The Army even did not hide its involvement in the its club: it was not CSKA, but CFCA Sredetz – that is Central Football Club of the Army ‘Sredetz’. And everybody knew that the Police was running Levski, that the name ‘Vitosha’ was just empty sham. Both teams were back to their old power and dominance, heavily supported by their ‘sponsors’, which at the end was the Communist Party… what change, then? Old scheming and machinations continued… carefully hiding scandalous practices at the top by punishing the bottom. So, this year two teams were found guilty of using illegible players in the qualifications for promotion to Third Division. They were disqualified immediately… what was interesting, though, was that those rule violators played against each other. Most likely informing on each other and thus caught both. It is easy and even reasonable to think it was wide-spread practice. Second Division provided another scandal, which is well remembered and, with time, mythologized by everyone involved, so no truth could be discovered. Actually, there were two scandals, now weaved into one. In the last round of the Second Division championship Neftohimik (Bourgas) hosted Madara (Shumen). The match ended 6-2 Neftohimik. With this win Neftohimik escaped relegation. However, it was discovered – and the Federation boasted it was ‘proven without any doubt’ – that the match was deliberately started late, both teams in agreement to drag the starting time, so to be able to know the final result of another game early and finish with result benefiting Neftohimik. The decision of the Federation was to not give any points for this match and that way Neftohimik ended relegated. Justice prevailed… really? On one hand there is the myth among the Shumen fans that their ‘strong’ team was constantly wronged by schemes of Dunav (Rousse) and was practically denied promotion to the top division by illegal means approved by the Federation – mostly unjust refereeing of their games, so to be insured that Dunav and not Madara will be promoted. True? False? Who would know, but there was no denying that Madara was caught in giving away the match against Neftohimik. Further, Dunav was involved in another accusations – they were really battling with Arda (Kradzhali) for promotions and the game between them in Kardzhali was decisive. Those, who saw the match – not just Arda supporters, but journalists and neutral fans – tell that the match was obviously ‘doctored’ in favour of Dunav. Nothing could be printed at the time, so only rumors existed, but one reason, going directly to the top of the Communist Party is that Arda and to certain extend Madara were to be kept down for political reasons – the regions Arda and Madara belong are predominantly Turkish populated. To avoid possibility of political protests via football, better keep those teams down, Arda especially, because Kradzhali region is at the Turkish border – the shameful renaming of the Bulgarian Turks created tensions and the Communist Party wanted to avoid possible escalations and protests. So, Dunav, sitting on the Romanian border, was safer choice… nothing could be proven, of course, but at the end Dunav prevailed by 2 goals better goal-difference over Arda. As for Madara, their own myth was largely fueled by the promotion of Dunav – their argument was largely based on the fact that Dunav did not have great team, added by the suspect game against Arda. However, if Dunav did not have strong team, Arda and Madara were similarly pedestrian. Rumors, growing into myths, but the fact is the system was corrupt as ever and the measures against corruptions were only cosmetic – only small clubs were found guilty and punished. It was laughable… and unbelievable, especially after 1985’s Party heavy-handed punishment of the leading clubs – one season the Army and the Police were kept away from football and provincial Praty bosses were too scared to use their own schemes and the champion was a provincial club, never winning a title before, no matter how good team they may have had. Then everything returned to the ‘normal’ and CSKA (CFCA Sredetz) and Levski (Vitosha) dominated again, and corruption continued as ever before. Once the Army and the Police came back, the precarious equality disappeared and the big clubs were back to their old habits to take whoever player they want from any club and there was no way to come even close to them anymore. Back to normal – CSKA and Levski on top, everybody else out of the picture. Meantime, reforms and experiments were seemingly over: no longer a limit of the ties, no more relegation play-offs, no more ‘junior’ teams of the First Division clubs playing in Third Division. What remained was that in Third Division 3 points were given for a win (the top two divisions kept ‘classic’ system – 2 points for a win) and the reduction of Third Division from 6 groups to 4. And a curious Army league was played – curious, because the Army had First Division clubs for years and some other Army teams played in the lower levels previously. Why such separate championship since CSKA never looked for players in the Army system? There was also established for a very long time separate ‘academic’ championship between University teams and yet at least two teams were playing in the normal championships – Akademik (Sofia) and Akademik (Svishtov). The possible reason for such Army and University championships could be that they were the closest to real amateur teams. It is hard to see why such teams were not included in the 4th Division, though.
Anyhow, let’s go ahead: Third Division. Geographically divided into 4 groups of 18 teams each. The champions were promoted to Second Division. Along with decline, reorganizations played a big role in the make of Third Division – since a few years ago the Second Division was larger and divided into groups as well, the amalgamated Second Division relegated a big number of clubs, some not only playing for years Second Division football, but some even playing in the First Division. This, the Third Division now was made largely of former Second Division clubs – in theory, most of them were eager to get back to their familiar league and the battle for promotion will be fierce. To a point, it was, but the expected increased quality of game and players did not materialize. After all, quality is not achieved by order. Some clubs, used to ‘eternal’ comfortable vegetation in Second Division appeared actually stunned finding themselves at third level – Svetkavitza (Targovishte), Septemvriyska Slava (Mikhailovgrad – today Montana), to name but a two. After so many years keeping teams just good enough to ensure mid-table place in Second Division, now they were unable to climb back – mediocrity had a heavy price, they seemed unable to grasp the reality and change their habits. After all, they were not properly relegated because they weak – they were relegated by a fiat. But their players had the habit of ‘mid-table’ – lower league, higher league, they were not winners, they were mid-table guys… That apart, the battles were still between former Second Division teams and only such teams all every group of Third Division.
Southeastern Group: Lokomotiv (Stara Zagora- won the championship with 72 points. They came ahead of another former Second Division club – Asenovetz (Asenovgrad) – by 1 point. Lokomotiv benefited from their big neighbors Beroe – a whole bunch of aging Beroe players were playing for Lokomotiv now. They were the core good enough to propel Lokomotiv back to Second Division.
Southwestern Group: Belasitza (Petrich), Rilski sportist (Samokov), and Akademik (Sofia) fought for first place – two former members of First Division and one former Second Division member. Akademik eventually got the upper hand and finished first with 67 points. Unfortunately, Akademik was unable to build a team even remotely closer to their great squads of the 1970s – times changed. A ‘students’ club was unable to provide enough money for good players in times when players were officially professional – before they were able to compensate with easily given degree, now it was not enough.
Northwestern Group:
Cherveno zname (Pavlikeni) clinched first place, finishing 1 point ahead of Kom (Berkovitza). Both teams used to play in the Second Division before, but nor regularly and to a point it was surprising they were at the top now – it was expected already mentioned Septemvriyska slava (Mikhailovgrad) to win: they, presumably, were the richest club in the group, the only one coming from a regional capital and not from a small town. But, apparently ‘stunned’, they finished 7th and were not a factor at all.
Northeastern Group:
Lokomotiv (Rousse) won the battle with Dorostol (Silistra) by 4 points difference, the biggest difference a winner built this season. Like their rivals, they used to play Second Division before, quite frequently. Sitting from left: P. Kirilov, Il. Minchev, Zl. Zlatev, St. Yordanov, Iv. Ignatov, R. Monev.
Middle row: Iv. Andonov, Sv. Ivanov, D. Atanassov, At. Tzanov – assistant coach, N. Christov – coach, A. Issaev, E. Kolev, Iv. Vetronov.
Top row: D. Christov – administrator, D. Totev. V. Gornachki, T. Filipov, Il. Yankov, B. Popov – medic.
Now, Lokomotiv, the smaller second club in the city of Rousse, had a checkered history of ups and downs, mostly related to financing – on occasion they did not have a team at all, barely existing, if not entirely folding, before reemerging again. More than Second Division was hardly ever their aim, as usually was with second clubs in relatively smaller cities. But as a second club, their fate largely depended on the current situation of the ‘big’ local clubs – usually, team like Lokomotiv had a number of players discarded by the ‘big’ neighbor for getting old or something else. Such players often were good – good enough for Second Division, that is. However, recently Dunav (Rousse), the ‘big’ neighbor, had problem with talent and increasingly depended on out-of-town recruits, who had little desire to stay for long with Dunav, let alone settling in Rousse for good. The result was that Lokomotiv had not even one familiar player right now – the only big name in the team was their young coach Nikola Christov, a legend of Dunav, a prolific scorer, who even played for CSKA in the 1970s and the national team. He promoted Lokomotiv back to Second Division, but the team needed some reinforcements. The case of all Third Division winners this season, actually.

Poland the Cup

The Cup final provided a drama. It was played in Lodz between Lech (Poznan) and Legia (Warszawa). Given the performance of the finalists this season and their current squads, Legia was seemingly the favourite, but regular time ended 1-1 and no goals were scored in the extra-time. In the penalty shoot-out Lech prevailed 3-2.
Legia (Warszawa) – empty-handed again… this is the losing team at the Cup final. From left: Paweł Janas (captain), Zbigniew Robakiewicz, Grzegorz Szeliga, Zbigniew Kaczmarek, Dariusz Dziekanowski, Arkadiusz Gmur, Dariusz Kubicki, Leszek Pisz, Andrzej Łatka, Tomasz Arceusz, Krzysztof Iwanicki.
Hardly a great squad, but still having more worthy players than most Polish clubs, including Lech. It may have been just a chancy loss, but it was a loss – no trophy for Legia.
Lech (Poznan) may have been lucky, but they won the Cup and it was great! One of the strongest sides during the 1980s, but somewhat fluctuating up and down – this season was rather week. They finished in mid-table, but actually were closer to the dangerous relegation zone than anything else and the Cup was very important for them. Especially because Lech was not a club with many trophies – but all of them were won during the 1980s and that was their 3rd Cup. Thus, the season ended with a triumph.

Poland I Division

First Division. In the 1980s, especially the second half of the decade, various schemes were employed, trying to combat increasing ills of the game: harsh physical style, leading to boring games and low scoring, along with increasing inequality between top and second level teams and never ending financial problems. Poland was no stranger to experiments and some new ways were used this season, resulting in mysterious final record: looked like ties in regular time were not permitted and extra-time was played in order to get a winner. But the numbers are difficult to grasp, here is an example – the final record of the champions: 13-6-7-0-4. What does it mean? Regular time wins, extra-time wins, ties after regular time, losses after regular time, regular time losses? Looks like, but the points tally with such scheme: the champions ended with 51 points. Coming from what? The new rule was an attempt to increase scoring and attacking football: for a win by 3 or more goals, the winner got extra point. A loser by 3 or more goals got 1 point deduction. Apart from that – dominance of Gornik (Zabrze) on the top, one outsider at the bottom, and 4 teams going to relegation play-offs after the regular season with the somewhat unpleasant result that the weaker teams during the regular championship managed to keep their places in the league at the expense of the stronger.
Stal (Stalowa Wola) was the outsider, probably to nobody’s surprise – last with 16 points and relegated.
Baltyk (Gdynia) – 15th with 21 points. Weak season and deserving relegation.
Gornik (Walbrzych) – 14th with 24 points. Nothing special, this club was just happy to keep place in the league. As the lowest of the teams going to relegation play-offs, they had to face the highest placed team. No chance? Wrong! Gornik won the first leg away 2-1 and the second at home kept 2-2 tie. And survived!
Olimpia (Poznan) – 13th with 24 points. In the shadow of strong years of their local rival Lech, Olimpia looked like a candidate for relegation. But like Gornik (Walbrzych), they put themselves together when it mattered most and sent higher-placed team to doom. Interestingly, in the exactly same way Gornik did it: Olimpia won the away leg 1-0 and then kept 2-2 tie at home. If anything, at least the rarity of local derbies was preserved for one more year – only Lodz and Poznan had more than one team in the top league.
Lechia (Gdansk) – there surprising strong period already ended and they sunk low to familiar grounds: 12th with 26 points. Normally, safe, but not this year and after losing the relegation play-off against Olimpia (Poznan) 0-1 and 2-2, they swallowed the truly bitter pill: relegation! Back to Second Division.
Zaglebie (Lubin) ended 11th with 26 points. Then the terrible happened – Gornik (Zalbrzych) beat them in the relegation play-offs 1-2 and 2-2 and Zaglebie went down. Like Lechia (Gdansk), they were very familiar with second level football, but under normal rules they would have been safe. Too bad.
Pogon (Szczecin) – 10th with 28 points. Safe and good for at least one more season in top flight.

Lech (Poznan) – although they were champions not long ago, nothing special this season. 9th with 28 points. Yet, they had a good reason for a happy celebration.
Jagiellonia (Bialystok) – 8th with 29 points. Considering that they still newcomers to the league, not bad at all.
Szombierki (Bytom) – 7th with 29 points. By now, hardly anybody remembered that they were Polish champions at the turn of the decade – modest club, they almost immediately sunk down after winning the title, eventually relegated and spending some time in the Second Division. Now they were coming back – that is, not to glory, but to first level football and the whole aim was to stay there.
Slask (Wroclaw) – 6th with 29 points.
Widzew (Lodz) – 5th with 31 points. Not bad, but there great days were clearly over – it was just running on inertia.
LKS (Lodz) – 4th with 39 points. Ahead of local rivals Widzew, which was great – as it is, LKS has been the better and somewhat stronger club in Lodz, until Widzew led by Boniek burst in and actually became much more successful in short time. But short time is short time… LKS was getting the upper hand already. Since the local rivalry was perhaps the strongest and most heated in Poland, it was just increasing and spilling outside the stadiums.
Legia (Warszawa) – good coach, good team, 3rd place with 39 points. Got bronze medals only on 1 goal better goal-difference than LKS (Lodz). The story of Legia… almost always coming short of expectations.
GKS Katowice -arguably, having their strongest period, but it was strong enough only for clinching 2nd place with 40 points. Not a title contenders.
Gornik (Zabrze) – supreme and unchallenged champions for 4th consecutive year. Finished 11 points ahead of GKS Katowice! Let translate their final record: 13 ‘normal’ wins, 6 wins by 3 or more goals, giving them extra point for every one, 7 ties, 0 losses by 3 or more goals, 4 ‘normal’ losses. 13X2, 6×3, 7×1 – 51 points. No deducted point, for they were never beaten by 3 goals difference. Scored 65 goals (the next best scorers were GKS Katowice and LKS Lodz with 40 goals – a comment on the new rule really: it was not exactly changing anything), allowed 30 goals (10 teams had equal or better defensive record – another comment: attacking football clearly won the day, but at the price of leaky defense. So… better not permitting goals than scoring). Gornik was not just superior – it was their 4th consecutive title and 14th altogether. As the things looked, they were clearly going to at least equal and very likely break their record of the ‘golden’ 1960s, when they won 5 titles in a row. The forecast was ‘ironclad’: Ruch (12 tittles at the end of this season) and Wisla (6 tittles), the nearest rivals, were just coming back from Second Division and it was unlikely they recovered sufficiently to challenge Gornik. Legia, the steadiest team in Poland, not only had 4 titles, the last won in 1970, but were somewhat ‘cursed’ with constant failure – no matter how good a team they had, they somehow always failed to win the championship. Widzew was seemingly going to a period of decline, Lech was up and down, not a real rival currently, GKS Katowice was unlikely rival too – traditionally, they were not successful. Gornik was in perfect position: excellent team by Polish standards (traditionally, in Poland the best players were dispersed in various clubs and having 5-6 stars was enough to dominate – Gornik had that and only Legia seemingly had similar squad) and the other ‘big’ clubs were either in decline or rebuilding and trying to come back from a decline. Hard to see anything stopping Gornik in near future, even ever increasing exodus of players to foreign clubs was not dangerous – Gornik had younger stars, not yet at their prime and even if some went abroad, it was easy to replace them – playing for the champions was attractive to talent in other clubs. So it looked… and it was all wrong.
The future had a nasty surprise and for that reason this team deserves a second look: a look of the last Gornik team winning a title. Instead of new records – nothing! To this very date, Gornik did not win another championship. 30 years passed since and Gornik was unable to win the 15th title. Yet, they were still the most successful club in Poland – only they are no longer alone, they share the record with Wisla and Ruch and Legia are close with 13 titles today. Anyhow, this is the squad which won the last title for Gornik.