Saturday, May 16, 2009

ZSK Spartak went up. The second team of Varna, Bulgaria, won promotion by ending first in the Northern Second Division. Unlike Rome, Varna has glorious football past – three clubs won Bulgarian championships and Varna, not Sofia, was the leading football power of Bulgaria. But that was before 1944… after Communists came to power Sofia became the football centre of the country. Most likely Sofia clubs were going to dominate Bulgarian football even without Communist government, but Communism helped: it promoted the clubs from the capital. Old clubs were dissolved quickly – the three strong clubs from Varna disappeared. Eventually Cherno more and Spartak were established, both clubs taking over the history of the old clubs. Thus, Cherno more is considered inheritor of Ticha and Vladislav, having three Bulgarian titles between themselves and merged together in 1945. Spartak took over the history of Shipchenksi sokol, which was champion once. It is hard to say how much, if at all, the old clubs evolved into new ones. Cherno more became a military club, attached to the Navy, and thus into the sphere of CSKA (Sofia). They played mostly in the first division and with relative success. In Varna, they were the ‘big’ club. Spartak was modest club, less supported, and most likely to play in the second division. By the end of 1960s they moved constantly up and down – one year in first division, relegated to the second the next season, winning promotion once again, somewhat too strong for the second division and too weak to survive in the first.
In the early 1969 Spartak was one of the clubs ‘amalgamated’ by government decree – they were merged with lowly Lokomotiv (Varna), thus becoming ZSK Spartak. It was a merger of little import and hardly anybody paid attention – Spartak had few fans; Lokomotiv – most likely none. Neither club was worth mentioning. Perhaps because of that this was one of the longest lasting mergers of 1969 – it was dissolved in the earl1980s. However, 1969 created new constellation of satellites – until than only CSKA had a network of helping affiliates: the army clubs. Cherno more in Varna. The merger of Levski with Spartak, belonging to the Police, created another network – Police clubs became donors of Levski-Spartak. ZSK Spartak in Varna. It is hard to say for certain how much of ZSK Spartak belonged to the Police and how much to the Railroads (Lokomotiv was railway’s club and this remained after the merger), but clubs with the name ‘Spartak’ became related to Levski-Spartak. Players moved from the ‘mother’ club to the ‘satellite’ and from the ‘satellite’ to the ‘mother’. Hardly helpful for the ‘satellites’ and hardly helpful to football and fair game: in the case of Varna, her clubs played insignificant small role in the championship. But in 1971 ZSK Spartak went up one more time – in terms of the club, a success.
Here they are: front, left to right: R. Nyagulov, H. Mesropov, Iv. Tanev, D. Dyakov, M. Bonchev, P. Gochev, D. Angelov – captain.
Top: Iv. Filipov- assistant coach, D. Donchev, St. Staykov, P. Dimitrov, B. Kotzev, Al. Goncharov, Iv. Kolev, Y. Borisov, N. Dimitrov, D. Berov, P. Kalchev, St. Semov-coach

Well, nothing much in this squad. Some Spartak legends (Mesropov, Angelov, Goncharov, Kalchev) with some status in Varna’s football history. But two players soon to move to Sofia and Levski-Spartak – Stefan Staykov and Metody Bonchev. Satellite system already at work – both came from the ‘mother’ club. Bonchev played for Levski before the merger of 1969 and Staykov came from Spartak (Sofia) youth system. Not needed in the new Levski-Spartak ,they moved or were given to ZSK Spartak. Both played well in Varna and were recalled back to Sofia. Bonchev, a mediocre player, never made much of an impression and didn’t last in Levski-Spartak. Staykov was another story – he established himself as first goalkeeper and was invited to the national team. He played for Bulgaria in the 1974 World Cup. He became a star of a kind – but in Levski-Spartak, not in the small ZSK Spartak. Yet, he was noticed as a big promise when playing in Varna. And that is all to say about this team.
I have soft spot for small clubs. I like them going up. They deserve mentioning now and then. After all, that’s football – surprises, ups and downs. Lazio relegated, ZSK Spartak promoted. Who is ‘big’ and who is ‘small’? Staykov, Chinaglia, and Wilson played in the World Cup 1974.