Monday, June 1, 2009

There were no surprises in the 1/16-finals – the favorites won. The weaker clubs were really weak. A sample: Bulgarian champion CSKA ‘Septemvriisko zname’ played against the Albanian champion – Partizani (Tirana). Hardly anything was known about Partizani, yet nobody worried: the Albanians were no opposition. The hewspapers presented them in somewhat curious, but correct way:
The centre-forward Pano often had to play behind his own goalkeeper, the observers said. The Albanians spent most time in desperate defense, involving everybody.
Yet, the goalie Muhedini had to fish out the ball from his net.
The Bulgarians were confident and rightly so:
They dominated the matches: on this occasion the left winger Marashliev did not reach the ball, but there are three Bulgarian players and only two Albanians.
And here the goalie is alone and desperate against two strikers. Clumsy too, Muhedini.
And Albanians down – Tzvetan Atanasov (in white) scores the first goal for CSKA.
Most early matches were like that, and the stronger teams did not sweat much. The favorites hardly played on the top of their abilities. CSKA won easily, if not beautifully, and advanced. Today, in 2008, a match between Bulgarian and Albanian team would not be sure thing, but rather equal and unpredictable – it was not so in the early 70s: the outsiders were truly outsiders. If I am showing Albanians here, it is because it was very rare to find Albanian players depicted. For many years these were the only photos of Albanian football I saw. True exotica – nobody photographs the lowliest losers, except for amusement. In the same time the football division in Europe was very clear and unflexible.