Bulgarian Football Boss Under Fire Over Racist Comments

Bulgaria's Vasil Bozhikov (down) in action against France's Dimitri Payet (top) during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifier in Sofia, Bulgaria, 7 October 2017. Photo: EPA-EFE/VASSIL DONEV

"I stand behind my words that my wish is to watch Bulgaria with Bulgarian players," Ivanov said on Wednesday after facing critical reactions in sports and social media. 

"As long as I'm director, a foreign player, with a foreign passport, other skin colour, won't play," Ivanov told National Radio on Tuesday, shortly after meeting the youth team of Montana FC.

He added: "I don't want players from other countries to replace Bulgarian ones. Some countries might do this but this is to me is a faulty practice." 

The increasing presence of foreign players in the football league and whether this blocks the development of local talent has been a hot topic for years.

Most recently, Bulgaria scored a 0-0 draw with Luxembourg on November 20, in a friendly away game, without any listed naturalised players.

This century, several players from Brazil have been capped for the national team. In the late-1990s, players born in Serbia, such as Zoran Yankovic and Predrag Pazin, were part of the Bulgarian team in the Euro 2004.

Bulgaria's national team is currently managed by a Serbian, Mladen Krstajić, a former centre-back for German teams Schalke 04 and Werder. 

Georgi Ivanov is a former striker who was one of the top scorers for Levski (Sofia) in the early 2000s. He retired in 2009. He has been building a managerial career in the league since then, and was briefly interim coach of the national team in 2022. 

In October 2019, the Bulgarian Football Union was charged by UEFA over racist chanting during a match between Bulgaria and England.


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