Saturday, January 31, 2009

Nikola Kotkov played for smaller club – Lokomotiv (Sofia), from 1956 to 1969, and most likely would have played there to the end of his career. An attacking midfielder, he was highly technical and inventive footballer, capable to beat the opposition alone. He played a total of 322 games, scoring 163 goals for Lokomotiv and Levski-Spartak. Ironically, the deadly accident tainted memories of Kotkov – when he moved to Levski-Spartak, he automatically was diminished in status: second after Gundy. After their death, the myth relates largely to Gundy, diminishing further Kotkov: it cannot be helped – Gundy was Levski. On the other hand, by moving to Levski, Kotkov was no longer equaling Lokomotiv. After all, he died with blue shirt, not red and black. It is not fair to the memory of either player – they were best friends and two of the best Bulgarian players ever. Yet, the time was not opportune – the merger alienated fans, and non-Levski players were suspect. Unlike the implants from Spartak, Kotkov was accepted – fans loved him before, when he was still playing for Lokomotiv. In 1970 he scored 4 goals against CSKA in 5-2 win – the first player of either team to score four goals in the derby. Yet, Kotkov was largely seen as a victim – fans sympathized with his refusal to play for artificially made club. But he did not join Levski because he wanted to play for the Blues; he came too old; and he played for Levski only two years. It was even felt that former Lokomotiv fans, now joining the ranks of Levski fans, did not really support Levski, but mostly protested the disappearance of their club and cheered only Kotkov, not the team. And finally – on national stage Gundy and Kotkov were great players, but Levski had many stars already and the debate who was the best Blue player ever revolved around Asparukhov and Georgy Sokolov, another great home grown legend, forced into retirement by the merger with the Police club. Unfortunately, Kotkov did not play long enough for Levski to become true legend. In the eyes of Levski fans, he was Lokomotiv legend – loveable, but foreign. For Lokomotiv fans – Kotkov was theirs, yet with a little grudge for moving to Levski
One of the many goals Kotkov scored with the red and black stripes of Lokomotiv.