Only a week after the legendary finals we share our 5 reasons why Plovdiv is the football city of Bulgaria



Theodor Karakolev

The finals for the Bulgarian Cup between Lokomotiv and Botev Plovdiv on May 15 will remain in history. Not only with its emotional load, but also with objective facts - according to completely official data this is the most visited game in Bulgarian football between teams outside the respective city. The Professional Football League reported that a total of 20,500 people had bought tickets and watched the match in Sofia between the two big Plovdiv teams won by Lokomotiv with 1:0. The support and the atmosphere at the stadium are enough of a proof of which is the football city in Bulgaria, but we’ll still offer you 5 reasons why Plovdiv is the football capital:

The Derby                                      

The final on May 15 was just the icing on the cake of the long history of the derby between the two clubs. No matter what the momentary form, the two teams have always made legendary and dramatic games with many goals, twists, and battles on the pitch - and often outside. In the Cup final, Loko entered as the team with weaker results this season, but managed to beat, though not considered a favorite.

And this has happened not once and twice. Even in their worst years of the Hristolov era, the "canaries" managed to fight for success - such as the 3: 2 victory in 2006 with the goals of Vidolov and Sadovitz, and in 2002, one of the strongest years for Loko and the weakest for Botev, was also the legendary game, which finished dramatically with 5:3 for Loko at Lauta. Over the years, when Loko was in a worse period, it also managed to play equally with Botev - precisely because it is a real derby.

The Plovdiv teams are not the most successful but are the most supported

Even if we gather the cups and titles of the Plovdiv teams, they are far from the successes of the two "grands" of the Bulgarian football Levski and CSKA. However, this has never stopped the support, as both groups of supporters have proven that not titles and successes are the most important, but love. The fan base has always been behind Botev and Loko. In recent years, Botev had to go through the C and the B groups to return to the elite football after the Hristolov era, breaking all the records of recent years for attendance in these lower echelons.

Even further back in the history of football, when games were much more visited, the “black and white” records recall the record-breaking visits of a B group match - 40,000 against Beroe in Plovdiv, as well as a match in Ihtiman, for which allegedly 10,000 people traveled in 1983. The "black and yellow" and "black and white" don’t stop arguing about the numbers and who has more or exaggerates their attendance, but the fact is that even in the second and third groups, both teams can rely on the love of their supporters - and this is not influenced by the number of cups and successes.

The visits of the Plovdiv teams in Burgas

Another stop in front of football love is the stadiums. Plovdiv hasn’t the luck of other cities - the whole country’s favorite, such as Sofia, or a local benefactor who has given a lot of money for a normal stadium - like in Lovech, Burgas or Razgrad. Even the years of violent propaganda construction from socialism didn’t leave Plovdiv a good stadium, as the two-story "Plovdiv" wasn’t finished before the state went bankrupt in the early '90s. So, due to the lack of quality stadiums, both teams have to go outside of Plovdiv very often.

Burgas and the local Lazur stadium became a favorite place, and the people of Burgas keep very good memories of the Plovdiv players - regardless of which of the two teams. This year in ECT it’s Lokomotiv’s turn, but in previous years the sea town has been flooded by the "yellow-black" sea for matches in Europe, as well as several duels for the Cup and the Super Cup of Bulgaria. All fans of Botev will remember the summer in which the team played and ended up being equal to the German Stuttgart and dropped only because of the goal scored on their own field. Loko also keeps memories - successful and not so much - of matches for local and European tournaments both in recent years and more than 10 years ago, such as the cult match with Bolton, lost unfortunately with 1:2 with two late goals for the Englishmen.

The football stars

Maybe there is no need to list but a bunch of football legends is connected to Plovdiv – from our biggest Hristo Stoichkov, through one of the most successful players for the national team - Hristo Botev and the late Dinko Dermendzhiev, to the winner of the Golden Boot Georgi Slavkov or World Finals participant Ayan Sadakov - who also left us in the last few years. Plovdiv has always spawned a lot of football talents that don’t always manage to develop their full potential on local soil, and they either leave for Sofia or abroad.

And, of course, the Cup final

The Cup final is a match that will forever remain not only in the history of Plovdiv but in the national football history. Surely the legends and disputes between the supporters of the two teams will go around even when today's children become grandfathers - about how Loko beat the "glorified" Botev, or how, according to official data, the "black and yellow" were 15,000 and the Loko fans - just 5000, each with their "trump cards".

All this is a reason for some chatting, controversy or nagging, but perhaps the most important thing is that the emotions did not provoke unnecessary aggression, but love overcame everything - the love for the winners and the love for Botev who lost. Sofia and Bulgaria saw that the two groups of supporters loved their teams much more than sowing hatred and destruction; that they can respect each other at the most important moments - with the posters of the "black and white" supporters in memory of Dinko Dermendzhiev and the answer of 15,000 "yellow-black" supporters with applause of the wonderful gesture. They saw how the black-and-yellow footballers who lost were greeted with cheers and applause from their fans, and the black and white, though having a difficult highway trip and late going home, showed dignity and respect for the city and stadium.

And indeed, on this weekday, the 20,000 on the stands showed once again that Plovdiv is the football city that supports its favorites and loves its team, no matter the temporary form and the temporary successes since love is forever.