Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A little gallery of the Bulgarian 1971-72 season.
This photo from CSKA – Botev (Vratza) perfectly shows the huge gap between the top club and… almost everybody else. The small Tzvetan Atanasov is much higher than the big goalie and defensemen of Botev. Yet, it does not look particularly effective action…
Goal… The photographer called this photo ‘The Goalkeeper’s prayer’, because of the hands, although it was already too late for praying. May be training would have prevented the goal?

Defensive tactics were bitterly criticized in Bulgaria for years: teams most often depended on lone striker, who had little chance to beat heavy defenses. As a result Bulgarian football was much more attractive in photography than on the pitch.
This is a collage amusingly true to the real game – a lot of effort, but who plays the ball? And to what end? The defense missed it; the striker is going to miss it, clearly running for something else. No goal! Again! This is a rare glimpse of the bottom of Bulgarian First Division – Chernomoretz (Bourgas) against N. Laskov (Yambol). Both teams survived in 1972, but soon after were relegated. The club from Yambol – here in defense, with white sleeves (but don’t ask me about the team colours!) – played only 3 seasons in the First Division, finishing 13th in 1971, 16th in 1972, and finally 17th – relegation zone – in 1973.
Another rare photo – CSKA – Marek 6-1. Marek ended 17th and were relegated, but this club is worth mentioning: they were the only small town club to last more than a season in the First Division (and at the end of 1970s to reach European tournaments). Their home town is Dupnitza, which was renamed Stanke Dimitrov during Communist time – after rather dubious Communist hero, a Soviet spy, if I remember correctly, who happened to be born in the town. His conspiratorial nickname was Marek – which became the name of the club. Since Marek is not Bulgarian name (Polish really), hardly anybody thought of the club’s name as the same as of the Commie. After the fall of Communism the town reversed to its original name, but not the club – fans are used to Marek.
In 1972 the club was related to something else: the sorry fate of small clubs in the Communist world. Never having good players, Marek depended on brutality for survival – they were notorious butchers, considered CSKA’s satellites. Since they were not an army club, the reason for that was different: CSKA applied political pressure on Marek – Dupnitza’s Party Secretary, the local semi-god, was told that the army will let local boys to stay in the city and play for Marek during their army service if Marek take it easy when playing against CSKA. As a result, Marek never resisted the ‘Reds’ – here is a prime example: Sapinev (#5, in white), one of the worst offenders in Bulgarian football, playing the lamb.
And one more point: Levsky-Spartak, like the original Levsky before, often lacked concentration against lower clubs, struggling as a result and losing points. CSKA had entirely different attitude: they were always concentrated and routinely thrashed the small fry, achieving supreme goal difference at the end of the season. There was no mercy for friend and foe alike, which helped them to many a title.