Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Yet, pessimism dominated the picture – the winners of the two Second Divisions only confirmed the crisis: ZhSK Spartak (Varna) won the Northern, and Beroe (Stara Zagora) - the Southern Second Division. It was quick return to top flight for both clubs – they were relegated together in 1973-74, and obviously were too strong for the lower level. Which meant football down there was getting poorer if anything… Yet, if one looks at the promoted teams, there was nothing to be optimistic about.

ZhSk Spartak back to First Division: Standing, left to right: Nedev, Iliev, Enchev, Zafirov, Popov, Fazhev. Crouching: Radev, Iv. Petrov, Kiryakov, Zahariev, Andonov.

Beroe, best in the South. First row, left to right: B. Kirov, Zh. Zhelev, P. Petkov, D. Dimitrov, M. Katzarov, N. Ivanov.

Middle: Chr. Panchev – assistant coach, P. Olimpiev, K. Kasherov, G. Vassilev, K. Kostov, Chr. Todorov, T. Minchev, B. Tanev, Chr. Mladenov – coach.

Third row: G. Georgiev, St. Ivanov, Chr. Belchev, R. Boyadzhiev, Chr. Antonov, D. Stoyanov.

It was mind-boggling why ZhSK Spartak spent the decade between First and Second Division, but Beroe was even more weird – the club from Varna usually stayed at the bottom of First Division, when playing there at all, which was not the case of Beroe – their amplitude was greater: a year at the top, ending third and reaching Cup final, and playing in the European cups, was followed by relegation. Which was followed by another strong season, then – another downslide. If the squads were made of average players, such fluctuations were understandable, but it was not the case: ZhSK Spartak had Krassimir Zafirov, one of the constantly best goalkeepers in the country in the 1970s and 1980s. Beroe had Petko Petkov – the best Bulgarian goalscorer of the 1970s. Unlike most provincial teams, both clubs had large number of players included in the national team at one or another time: Zafirov, Ivan Petrov, Enchev from ZhSK Spartak; Petkov, Dimitar Dimitrov, Kirov, Zhelev, Tenyo Minchev, Kasherov from Beroe. And such players were unable to keep their clubs in the First Division… may be they were not that good? And if so, Bulgarian football was lacking talent in general. Fair conclusion – the 1970s were lackluster years. Unremarkable at best; very weak at worst.