Saturday, October 24, 2009

Levsky-Spartak finished second – by Bulgarian standards, normal affair, since domestic football was and is dominated by two clubs. By 1972 Levsky’s fans somewhat accepted the forced addition of the Police club Spartak… and tried to downplay it, although it was not possible – the Police ruled the club. Old fans left never to return, but the club was still the most popular in Bulgaria and no effort to make fans accepting the new name succeeded – there were officially peddled chants for instance, which the fans routinely ignored. It was only ‘Levsky’ at the stands – irritating chants to the Communist regime, since the fans were stubborn and there was nothing to really do against their attitudes. Not only Levsky’s fans refused to accept the new name of their club: in Plovdiv nobody ever chanted ‘Trakia’ – the crowds chanted ‘Botev.
Below the stands Levsky-Spartak was in trouble – the team was aging and clearly declining. It was largely made of former Spartak players, which the fans were still unable to embrace as their own. Memories of better days constantly confronted the present, but at least in one aspect the fans were entirely right: the new club drastically changed the old philosophy of Levsky and to very regretful ends. Levsky traditionally claimed moral superiority – CSKA was stealing players from everywhere; Levsky made their own. At the end, the clash between Levsky and CSKA was always seen as people versus government: small, home made Levsky versus ruthless omnipotent CSKA, collected from the best the whole country made. Producers versus consumers. No longer that and on top of it – Levsky played poorly. 1972 was bad season, but worse was coming… so far, second place, boring football, 8 points behind the champions.
Bottom, left to right: Y. Kirilov, Y. Haralampiev, B. Mikhailov, St. Pavlov, St. Aladzhov, K. Ivkov, G. Tzvetkov, G. Kamensky, Iv. Stoyanov, V. Mitkov
Top: Yoncho Arsov – coach, G. Todorov, Tz. Vesselinov, Kr. Bogdanov, P. Panov, D. Zhechev, M. Gaydarsky, P. Kirilov, V. Arsov, St. Vassilev – assistant coach.

A lot of dead meat here… Yanko Kirilov, Petar Kirilov, Haralampiev, Bogdanov… not really old, but whatever good days they had, it was in remote past. Fragile ‘Metzy’ Vesselinov, eternally injured. Rapidly declining old horses – Kamensky, Gaydarsky, Mikhailov. Soft Tzvetkov, never playing up to expectations… highly suspect young talent, playing like Tzvetkov – Panov and Todorov… political problems with ‘Fiffy the Feather’ Pavlov, whose ancestry made him ‘unfit’ for Communist Police… It was very telling for the state of Bulgarian football in 1972 – Levsky-Spartak finished 8 points ahead of Beroe (Stara Zagora), having perhaps their best ever team, and Levsky-Spartak – one of the their weakest. Beroe ended 3 points clear from the 4th placed Slavia, thus, the champions were 19 points above the 4th placed… and 27 points ahead the 7th placed Botev (Vratza), who finished 3rd in 1971. And Botev were only 5 points ahead of the 17th placed and relegated Marek… enourmous division in three tiers, more than half the league no good at all. The future did not look bright… and not for Levsky-Spartak particularly.