Saturday, December 5, 2009

Up the ladder, Second Division, and another club hailing from Blagoevgrad – not from the county, but from the very centre of it. Logically, the summit of the local football scene. Pirin (Blagoevgrad) finished first in the Southern Second Bulgarian Division and was promoted to top league football for the first time in their history.
Pirin posing during the season. It was quite mature team, which managed to establish itself in the top league. In 1973 nobody really knew the players, but most of them played for many years – well after their 30s. The goalkeeper is perhaps the most interesting player – like most of his teammates, Hristo Hristov (nicknamed ‘The Shack’ for unknown to me reason) was not a spring chicken in 1973. He reached the national team, however – about 35 years old at the time. When he finally retired, he gave amusing reason – he said he decided to quit out of shame. Ashamed of being so old among young fellows and out of touch with them – he was 42, and one of his last teammates was called Berbatov. The father of Dimitar Berbatov, currently of Manchester United. Yet, Hristov retired at strange moment – when 6 Pirin players, Berbatov-the father among them, were sentenced to prison for gang raping a foreign tourist. Hristov was not part of the crime, but his comment brings a sinister question – out of touch with what? But it is only a sinister question – by all accounts, Hristov was a decent fellow. He died miserably forgotten a few years ago. As for Berbatov, with his son’s recent fame, the old story is currently under revision: now it was not rape, but entirely unjust and frivolous sentencing to jail. The old Berbatov may even believe his newly discovered innocence – despite the stories the other participants tell.
The current star of English football also started his career in Pirin. The question is which one… for recently the old club multiplied into 4 separate clubs, every each one claiming (contrary to evidence) the history of the team above. Naturally, all new clubs are called ‘Pirin’ (with slight variations for registration purposes) and are located in the city of Blagoevgrad They are evenly spread from 4th to 1st Division, although not quite because of performance, but because of court orders. One carefully avoided reason for naming so many clubs with the same name is Dimitar Berbatov – every club hopes and claims transfer money. So far Manchester United gives a total of zero pounds. And just after the end of Autumn half of 2008-09 season the first and second division clubs merged – the nightmare continues. It was so simple in 1973… Pirin just won a trophy in Italy, in a tournament with local clubs, which provoked an outcry, for Palermo apparently played brutally against the Bulgarians. The Communist press said so at least. No matter, Pirin was going up.
Translated from Italian article criticizing Palermo and Pirin with the cup – big success for the Second Division club. And rare trophy in Pirin’s history anyway… which club has it today I wonder.
This was also the last season Pirin played in stripes (at least I am not aware of them using stripes after that) – once in First Division, they started with Ajax-inspired white and green kit, and played with plainer combination of these two colours ever since.