Monday, February 16, 2009

Plamen Yankov. I am not alone blaming him for the death of Gundy and Kotkov – to me, and many others especially in 1971, he was the moral murderer. If he did not play brutally against Gundy on June 28, there would not have been tragic accident on June 30.
Yankov (b. 1951) was lowly player – he played for CSKA from 1969 to 1976, and then moved to Sliven, CSKA’s satellite, where many former CSKA’s players ended their careers. Young talent was also dispatched to Sliven first, to see are they any good for the mother club, but Yankov was never good to be send to ripe in Sliven. Instead, he was a substitute in CSKA’s for years, occasionally playing a full game when CSKA had too many injured players, or the opposition was so weak, there was no point to field the stars. The post he played is the bench, but he was one of the very few homegrown CSKA players until 1980. As a rule, none among the home product ever really made it in the first team, but Yankov was bellow most, so it is somewhat strange he was kept in CSKA for 7 years. I guess, CSKA kept Yankov and other eternal benchers just to have some substitutes and full squad. I can hardly imagine another reason: this guy was bellow mediocrity – I fondly remember him in action against Minyor (Pernik). The miners were no contest, and the Army fielded deep reserves from the freezer. Yankov found himself alone about 1 m in front of Minyor’s net. High ball was coming to him and without anybody near, Yankov was to be no less but a goalscorer. That is, if he just stayed where he was, not moving at all, and letting the ball hit him and bounce off into the net. But he was tempted – he kicked the ball. It went vertically… it was impossible to miss from that position, but he missed… when the ball eventually dropped back, there were the goalie and some defense player around Yankov, someone cleared the round object away. I still laugh at the memory. Yankov, however, served another purpose – whenever CSKA needed dirty work, they fielded him. In 1971 it was not so obvious, for he was new and rarely on the field, but he played against Levski, obviously instructed just to kick Asparukhov all the time. If a leg is broken – even better. Yankov was the last bitter drop for Gundy – provocations and brutality by skill-less player, for whom CSKA clearly did not care if he was red carded or not. They did not need him for anything else, except to injure Gundy. For this I blame Yankov as a moral murderer – Gundy was heartbroken and enraged, and dispirited victim of deliberate brutality. Yet, Yankov does not qualify for classic ‘butcher’ of Gentile’s kind. Gentile was a butcher, but he also knew how to play. He was not clumsy player and the ball was not alien object to him. CSKA had – as every team does – a long string of butchers during the years, and there were some in their 1971 squad. Butchers, who also played football – tough and merciless defensemen, or neurotic and short-tempered midfielders. They were perfectly capable of breaking legs, but also of giving passes and scoring. Yankov was hopeless as a player, and generally, when on the pitch, he was a big risk for his own team. Apparently, he was willing to serve otherwise – if instructed so, he was to kill a star of the opposition. Butchering Gundy was not his only achievement – other players of the time mention Yankov with disgust: it is always the same story – he was on the field only for kicking, swearing, and spitting. Yankov was often red carded in international games, but CSKA’s coaches never fretted about that – fielding him for just brutal acts, red card was anticipated in advance; a team with Yankov was 10 men anyway. The clumsy animal ended, apart from Gundy, the career of at least one other player (I remember certainly one – a veteran centre-back of provincial team, having a ‘second wind’ and splendid season until meeting Plamen Yankov. Yankov had simple solution for the annoying defenseman preventing CSKA from scoring and winning – he broke his leg, and the player never played again.) It is revolting that Yankov got some kind of fame because of his involvement in the death of Gundy and Kotkov…
I mourned in 1971 and the tragic year is unforgettable. I still think football became poorer game when Gundy and the Kitten went up in flames.