Bulgaria

Capital: Sofia
Population: 8.4 million
Currency: Lev (The Euro will be adopted at some point in the next 5 years)
Official Language: Bulgarian
Borders: Romania (North), Turkey (South/East), Greece (South), Macedonia (South/West) and Serbia (West)
GNP per Capita: $1,170 (110th in world)
Main Airport: Sofia International – Sofia

Located in the south eastern corner of Europe, Bulgaria is a mountainous country and has a thriving skiing season.  The River Danube forms the northern border, whilst the popular resorts on the Black Sea are to the east including Varna and Burgas.  The country was under Communist rule from 1947 to 1989.

CSKA Sofia won the title in 2007/08, but due to mounting debts theywere refused a licence by UEFA and were replaced by 2nd place Levksi Sofia.  Last season the two were reversed with Levski taking the title.

The following clubs will play in the PFG League in 2009/10.  For an up to date list of fixtures, click here.:-

Beroe – Stara Zagora – Beroe Stadium – 22,000 capacity
Botev – Plovdiv – Hristo Botev 21,000 capacity
Cherno More – Varna – Ticha Stadium 12,500 capacity
Chernomorets Burgas – Burgas – Naftex Stadium 18,037 capacity
CSKA Sofia – Sofia – Bulgarian Army stadium – 22,015 capacity
Levski Sofia – Sofia – Georgi Asparuhov stadium – 29,800 capacity
Litex – Lovech – Gradski Stadion Lovech – 7,500 capacity
Lokomotiv Mezdra – Mezdra – Lokomotiv Stadium – 3,000 capacity
Lokomotiv Plovdiv – Plovdiv – Lokomotiv Stadium – 13,500 capacity
Lokomotiv Sofia – Sofia – Lokomotiv Stadium – 19,000 capacity
Pirin – Blagoevgrad – Stadium Hristo Botev – 16,000 capacity
Slavia Sofia – Sofia – Slavia Stadium – 24,000 capacity
OFC Sliven 2000 – Sliven – Hadzhi Dimitar Stadium 15 000 capacity
Minyor Pernik – Pernik – Minyor Stadion 16,500 capacity
Sportist Svoge – Svoge – Chavdar Cvetkov Stadium 4,000 capacity
PFC Montana – Montana – Ogosta Stadium 7,000 capacity

Litex Lovech retained the Bulgarian Cup by beating Pirin 3-0.

FOOTBALL IN SOFIA

SOFIA – THE VASIL LEVSKI NATIONAL STADIUM – CAPACITY:  43,400 ALL SEATER

About the Vasil Levski National Stadium
The Vasil Levski is Bulgaria’s biggest stadium, and unsurprisingly classed as the National Stadium.  The stadium is named after the Bulgarian National hero who led the struggle against the rule of the Ottoman Empire in the middle of the 19th century.

The stadium was originally opened in 1953, having been constructed on the site of the original stadium used by Levski Sofia.  It was originally built with a capacity of 70,000, with fans standing on the terraces of a huge bowl arena. Today the terraces have been converted to smart blue seats, although apart from a small roof over the more expensive seasons in the main stand, it still remains roofless which is fine for those warm barmy April evenings, but not so for the cold and wet games in January. Sightlines are quite good though and if you get a chance a visit to the stadium to watch the big Sofia derby between CSKA and Levski is a memorable experience.

Further modifications were made in 2002 giving it UEFA 4 star status, and so become eligible to hold UEFA Cup finals.  The stadium was also the centre of Bulgaria’s unsuccessful bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Whilst the stadium is used by the national team for their games, Levski play their derby matches versus CSKA and Champions Leagues matches here.  Other than these, they play their domestic games at the Georgi Asparoukhov stadium located around 2km east of the Vasil Levski.  This stadium can hold around 30,000 fans.  A few hundred yards south of the Vasil Levski is the Stadion Balgarska Armia which is home to CSKA Sofia.

Who plays there?
Whilst the Vasil Levski is officially the home of the national side, and the Bulgarian cup final, in recent seasons the success of Levski Sofia has prompted the stadium to be used for Champions League matches.  Last season the stadium played host to home matches against Chelsea, Werder Bremen and Barcelona – quite a formidable trio, which unsurprisingly led to three defeats.  After winning the championship again in 2007, the club will be hoping for a favourable draw in the qualifying rounds to again compete in the group stages.

How to get there
The Vasil Levski Stadium is located close to the Borisova Gardens in the South East corner of the city.    It is a pleasant 15 minute walk from the city centre down Graf Ignatiev, although if you want to use public transport trams 2, 12, 14 or 19 run to the stadium.  The stadium sits around 100metres from CSKA’s Stadion Balgarska Armia.  If you are heading to Levski’s Asparoukhov stadion then use bus 78 or 120 which terminate at the Istok bus station adjacent to the stadium.

Getting a ticket
As Levski move their derby matches with CSKA and their Champions League matches to the national stadium, getting a ticket for any game has never been a problem.  Even their home match last year in the Champions League against Chelsea did not sell out, although no tickets were available on the day of the game.

SOFIA – GEORGI ASPARUHOV STADIUM – CAPACITY: 29,880

About the Georgi Asparuhov Stadium
The wide open spaces of the Georgi Asparuhov Stadium are rarely filled these days.  Since it opened in the 1960’s very little work has taken place to modernise the stadium and so now it is really showing its age.  It used to have a running track but now this empty space is just a vast expanse of concrete.  There is a small terraced area to the north which is home to any away supporters who may turn up.  The home fans are located in the open seated area to the south.  The stadium’s colourful seating does make it look more modern that it really is.  The stadium once held over 60,000 for a European Cup Winners Cup game although any high profile games are now played at the National Stadium in the Borisova Gardens.  It is named after a former player who was killed in a car crash.

Who Plays There?
Levski’s recent success has made them the most successful team in Bulgarian football, overtaking bitter rivals CSKA.  They have now won 25 Championships and 26 Bulgarian Cups including the domestic double on 13 occasions (including 2007).  Since 2000 the team have won the championship on 5 occasions.  However, they actually made a slow start to their footballing life.  After being formed in 1911 by a group of students, the club had to wait ten years before the formation of the Sofia Sports League before they could compete on a semi-professional stage.  The first National Championships took place in 1924 and the club were chosen to represent Sofia.  It would be nearly 10 years before they won the National Championship though, repeating the feat on 5 occasions in the 1940’s.

In 1949 the club’s name was changed to Dinamo on the orders of Stalin who wanted to see all of the top teams in the Soviet empire called Dinamo (hence Dinamo Kiev, Dinamo Moscow, Dinamo Berlin and Dinamo Dresden amongst others).  However, once the rule of Stalin’s Russia was lifted in 1957 the club re-adopted their Levski name.  The following decade was marked with inconsistency on the pitch as the club invested in its youth policy.

These young players started making their mark in the late 1960’s as Levski picked up Championships in 1965, 1968 and 1970.  This conveyor belt of talent continued to come through the youth academy at the club during the late 1970’s and 1980’s as the team won 5 more titles up until 1985.  In that season, Levski met CSKA in the Bulgarian Cup final.  In a game marred by crowd trouble, and fighting on the pitch which saw player sent off and clashes with the referee, both Levski and CSKA were forced to change their names (to Vitosha and Sredets respectively) and a number of players from either side were banned for life.  The 1985 title was also taken away from the club.

These sanctions were overturned within a few months but it wasn’t until 1989 that Levski were able to regain their name.  The 1990’s were a similar story of success on the pitch as the club won three titles in a row from 1993, as well as five Bulgarian Cup Finals.    These were followed up with the success we have seen recently in the 2000’s.

Europe has still proved a bridge too far for the club.  They have reached the European Cup Winners Cup quarter-finals on three occasions, and a similar stage in the UEFA Cup twice – the last time being in 2005/06 when they lost to Schalke, having beaten Marseille, Auxerre, Udinese and Artmedia enroute to the last eight.  Last season under the leadership of Stanimir Stoilov the domestic double was delivered with considerable ease.  Fans hope that this season they can repeat the feat as well as progress in the Champions League.

In terms of the National team, they are currently unbeaten in their Euro 2008 qualifying group, having beaten Slovenia, Luxemburg, and Belarus twice.  With a key game coming up against Netherlands in September they must look to continue this form and hope to snatch the 2nd qualifying spot currently held by Romania.

How to Get There
The stadium is located in the east of the city, close to the main railway line.  It is well served by bus lines 78 and 70 that run from the main railway station along Boulevard Glivnista as well as tram line 22 that runs from Avenue Aleksandar Dondukov passed the Nevsky church.

How to Get a Ticket?
There are very few games that are played at the Georgi Asparuhov that require advanced ticket purchase.  Major European games and the big derby versus CSKA are played at the National Stadium, confusingly called the Levski Stadium in the Borisova Gardens.  On a matchday tickets are sold from the small ticket windows either side of the entrances on the East and West side of the stadium.  Tickets for the covered seats cost 4Lv (£1.60) and for behind the goal they are 2.5Lv (£1).Tickets can be purchased from the club in advance – at the moment there is no facility to purchase tickets in advance from the website – although on occasions they will reserve you on by emailing them at adv@levski.bg.

SOFIA – LOKOMOTIV STADIUM – CAPACITY: 22,000 ALL SEATER

About the Lokomotiv Stadium
The Lokomotiv stadium is one of the worst looking stadiums you will come across from the outside.  It is located in the north of Sofia and from the exterior it looks abandoned with crumbling steps, broken windows and rusting floodlights.  It has one continuous single tier stand that sweeps around from behind each goal, and then a single rotting main stand on the opposite side of the pitch.  Amazingly it was opened in 1985 although it would easily pass for one 50 years older.  Views from most seats are good however and it is hard to imagine how good the inside looks from the outside.

Who Plays There
Lokomotiv Sofia were formed in 1929 by the workers of a nearby Railway factory.  Their early years were spent in the lower leagues until they reached the top flight just before the outbreak of World War Two.  During the war years they won their first two National Championships, in 1940 and 1945, following it up with two more wins in 1964 and 1978.  IN 1994 the club were taken over although the promised success has yet to materialise.  They have featured in the UEFA cup on a number of occasions including 2006/07 when they lost in the first round to Feyenoord on away goals.  Last season they exited the tournament at the same stage to Rennes of France.

How to Get There
The stadium is located in the north of the city.  The easiest way to reach it is by tram numbers 11, 12 or 19.  The latter runs close to the stadium.  At the terminus wlak back to the main road and then turn right.  The stadium floodlights will be visible around 400metres in the distance.  The main road outside the stadium is the Boulevard Rozhen.

How to Get A Ticket
With an average attendance rarely breaking the 3,000 barrier, getting a ticket for any games at the stadium is not hard.  Online booking is still a thing of dreams so the easiest option is to turn up 10 minutes before matchday and buy a ticket from the small booths in the car park.  A seat will cost between 3LV (£1.30) and 6LV (£2.60|).

SOFIA – BALGARSKA ARMY STADIUM – CAPACITY: 22,015 ALL SEATER

About the Balgarska Army Stadium
The CSKA stadium is one of the most historic stadiums in Bulgaria.  It was originally built in 1923 and has been renovated on a number of occasions by the club, who are owned (still) by the army.  The stadium is located in the heart of the Borisova Gardens, just south of the city centre.  It is 80% uncovered, with a small covered stand over the main VIP and press area.  Behind the west goal is a small terraced area.  The stadium is surrounded by tress and parkland which gives it the impression of a sleepy little ground, and with no more than a few thousand in here on matchday plus the athletics track, the atmosphere can be a bit muted.

Who Plays There?
The stadium is home to CSKA Sofia, the best supported and most hated team in the country.  Since they were formed in 1923 they have been associated with the army, although it took nearly 25 years to finally win a championship in 1948.  Since then they went on to dominate the national game, whether that may be via some “influential refereeing” and won twelve championships in fifteen years from 1950.  They have now won 25 championships including last seasons.  However, they were not granted a licence by UEFA at the start of the season to compete in the Champions League because of the financial state of the club, and their place was taken by rivals Levski.

Their pedigree in Europen is also impressive for a Bulgarian team, reaching the semi-finals on two occasions in 1967 and 1982, the latter when they lost to Bayern Munich.

How to get There?
The stadium is located in the Borisova Gardens just to the south of the city centre, and no more than a 10 minute walk from the Alexsandar Nevsky church.  It is located a minute’s walk from the national stadium and close to the main Olosov Most square where a number of buses, including the 84 from the airport terminate.

How to get a Ticket?
With an average attendance of just over 5,000, CSKA are the best supported club in the country.  However, this still leaves over 15,000 empty seats for most games and so it is not difficult getting a ticket for any game bar the derby with Levski Sofia on the day of the game from the block on the north side of the stadium next to the cafe.  Tickets for the main stand are 10Lv (£4) and 5Lv (£2) in the uncovered areas.

SOFIA – THE AKADEMIA STADIUM – CAPACITY: 18,000 ALL SEATER

About the Akademia Stadium
The 18,000 Akademia Stadium is one of the most noticable structures in the south east of the city and can be viewed from the airport some five miles away.  It is essentially one huge covered stand that can seat 15,000 fans in relative uncomfort.  All of the seats are plastic bolted to the concrete steps.  Views are unobstructed and the whole area opposite is open to the elements, offering some excellent views over the suburbs to the airport.  Behind each goal are a few rows of concrete steps.

Who Plays There?
The stadium is home to 2nd division Akademia Sofia.  The club were formed in 1947 by a group of students and have spent most of their history in the lower reaches of the Bulgarian leagues.  This season is their first back at this level for quite along time.  They have won the non-defunct Balkans Cup in 1974 when they beat FC Vardar.  They have also played in the UEFA Cup on two occasions, and most famously beat a star studded AC Milan team in the 2nd round of the competition in 1976, featuring such stars as Gianni Rivera and the current England Manager Fabio Capello.

How to Get There?
The stadium is located in the south east of the city and can be reached by Bus line 72 which stops directly outside the stadium, and runs every 10 minutes or so during the day.  Tram 20 runs just to the south of the stadium from the centre of the city.  Allow 30 minutes for any journey from the centre.

How to Get a Ticket?
Tickets for most games are sold on the gate of the stadium, costing 2Lv for a seat anywhere.  If you arrive 15 minutes into the game you can simply walk in free of charge.

SOFIA – SLAVIA STADIUM – CAPACITY: 22,500 ALL SEATER

About the Slavia Stadium
The Slavia is a huge bowl of a stadium that is rarely full these days.  It has one main stand that offers protection in the upper tier to fans, but apart from that the stadium is made up of banks of wooden bench seating.  Views are ok, although the fans are some distance from the action.  It was open in 1932 and is similar in design to a number of other stadiums in the city.

Who plays There?
The stadium is home to Slavia Sofia who are viewed as the fourth team in the city behind CSKA, Levski and Lokomotiv.  They were formed in 1913 making them older than their city ribals but have only won seven championships, the last being in 1996.  The have also played in Europe on a number of occasions, the last being in 1996 when they were elminated in the opening round.  In 1981 they reached the quarter finals of the European Cup Winners Cup, their best achievement to date.

How to Get There?
The stadium is located in the south west corner of the city, quite some distance out.  Tram line 11 runs past the stadium from the north of the city, and bus line 260 runs from NDK to the ground.

How to Get a Ticket?
With an average attendance of 1,200 it is hardly a hard task to get a seat in the stadium.  In fact wait until 15 minutes have passed and you can simply walk into the ground free of charge instead of paying 5Lv for a ticket.

Getting around
Public transport in Sofia consists of an extensive network of Buses, and Trolleybuses (buses that run on overhead cables).  Most of the main attractions are easily reached by foot, with public transport helping you reach any outlying areas. There is also a small metro system that mainly covers the city centre. A single ticket on any form of transport is 1lev and is valid for an hour.

Nearest Airport – Letishte Sofia Airport (SOF)
Telephone:              +359 2937 2211
Website:                  http://www.sofia-airport.bg

Sofia Airport is the main airport in Bulgaria. The airport is a hub for Bulgaria Air (successor of the bankrupt Balkan Airlines) and Hemus Air. It handled 2.2 million passengers in 2006.  After years of studying different possibilities, some as far as 70 km away from Sofia, it was agreed to expand the existing airport. The airport’s second terminal was officially opened on 27 December 2006.

The new terminal is located to the east of Terminal 1 and is significantly bigger than the old one that will continue to serve the low-cost airlines.  A new city bus line No. 284 is serving the route from Sofia University to Terminal 2, while No. 84 continues to run to Terminal 1. A single ticket costs 1Lv (around 40p).  You must remember to stamp your ticket the right way up in the machines otherwise you will be fined if caught by inspectors.

The airport is served by Bulgarian Air from London Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester,British Airways from London and more recently Easyjet from London Gatwick.

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