Saturday, December 24, 2011

What was coming up confirmed the crisis… Akademik (Svishtov) and Marek (Dupnitza – back then Stanke Dimitrov) were promoted. Akademik never played in the First Division before. Marek did play quite regularly, but they had the reputation of the most brutal team. It was actually a comfort to see them going down, hopefully, never to return… nobody (their fans, known for stoning visiting teams, excepted) was welcoming back Marek. Neither club looked like improvement – rather, they were one more sign of crisis.

Akademik (Svishtov), winners of the Northern Second Division. A ‘students’ club, belonging to the University of Economics in the small city on the shore of Danube River – small town, small university… given the predicament of the ‘big’ Akademik (Sofia), the picture was troublesome: since Akademik (Sofia) had difficulties recruiting and keeping good players, what possibly can do a club with smaller resources? But it was good – on principle – to see them going up!
Bottom, left to right: Il. Popov, V. Bozhilov, Al. Benchev, St. Zakhariev, V. Mikhov, P. Petkov.
Middle: Tz. Kamenov, O. Karchev, Iv. Genov, Iv. Aleksandrov, A. Borisov, Yu. Stoimenov.
Standing: Zh. Panev – coach, N. Kolev, V. Petkov, Iv. Nonchev, N. Dzharov, Pl. Valkov, P. Stankov, Iv. Zarkov, N. Kerkelov – assistant coach.
Even for debutants it was amazingly anonymous squad: a few players were barely recognizable for playing briefly in smaller First Division clubs; the rest were nobodies. Nobody was coveted by other clubs, whether big or small. And nobody remembers these guys today with only two exception – Petar Stankov, because he briefly played for the national team, and Valentin Mikhov. Mikhov, however, is well known not as a player – he became a major functionary after the fall of Communism, still heading his own creation – ‘The Professional Football League’.

Marek (Stanke Dimitrov) won the Southern Second Division, returning after years if exile to top flight. Nobody really wanted them – the memories of broken legs and stones flying from the stands were strong – but here they were coming again… Sitting, from left: A. Tomov, R. Karakolev, St. Shaldupov, St. Stoyanov, S. Pargov, L. Kolev, Al. Kyuchukov, Y. Ikonomov – masseur(?)
Middle: Ya. Dinkov – coach, L. Brankov, Iv. Karabelyov, G. Bogdanov, D. Dimitrov, Sl. Lazov, V. Zaprov, G. Belchinsky, D. Kukov – assistant coach.
Third row: N. Krastev, L. Sevdin, Iv. Palev, Em. Kyuchukov, K. Petkov, D. Doryanov, S. Raynov, An. Dinev.
Another anonymous team… a few aging survivors from the last time Marek played First Division football, just enough to keep memories of brutal villains alive – Shaldupov, Pargov, Belchinsky, Sevdin; one old horse, taking it easy after years in Slavia – Nikolay Krastev, that was all…
Neither club was seen as improvement of First Division and both were expected to be relegated the next year. Marek nobody wanted anyway, but they were to shatter predictions soon – suffice to say that 6 players of the above squad became national players, and they were not the only ones either. Unthinkable in the summer of 1976, when it looked like Bulgarian football was going to the devil.