Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bulgaria Soccer Update

Qualifying has begun for the 2012-13 UEFA Champions' League, which is the main competition for European soccer clubs. Bulgaria's champion last year was PFC Ludogorets Razgrad -- this team represents the town of Razgrad, Bulgaria, which has about 33,000 people. So Ludogorets could, in theory, become the Champions of Europe.

But it wouldn't be easy. Just to reach the group stages, Ludogorets Razgrad would have to make it through three rounds of qualifying -- the Second Qualifying Round, the Third Qualifying Round, and the Playoff Round. In the Second Qualifying Round, they were given a brutal draw against Dinamo Zagreb, the seven-time defending champions of Croatia.

This turned out to be quite a match. The teams played two legs, and the total score from both legs would decide the winner. The first leg, at Razgrad, ended in a 1-1 tie. On July 25, the teams met in Zagreb for the second leg. Ludogorets took a 1-0 lead, and later took a 2-1 lead, but in the 57th minute, the referee threw out one of Bulgaria's players for "simulation" (which I think means he was called for diving -- the sort of call that is almost never made.) That left Ludogorets with only 10 men. But they hung on, and after 90 minutes the score was 2-2. That meant that the aggregate score was 3-3, and that Ludogorets would go through on away goals. The referee, however, wasn't done. He added on eight minutes of injury time -- an absolutely unheard of amount. (I'm not kidding; I've literally never heard of a game with eight minutes of injury time.) In the eighth minute of injury time, Dinamo Zagreb finally got the goal they needed for a 4-3 aggregate victory, and Ludogorets was eliminated.

As you can imagine, the Bulgarians were not happy. Dimitar Barbatov, a Bulgarian who plays for Manchester United, made the following statement:

Boys, keep your heads high up. You played excellently; there is nothing to be ashamed of. But the man with the whistle has a lot to be ashamed of. A LOT! I have never seen such thing. This is a disgrace and there must be consequences. It is inadmissible to mock Bulgarian football and the hard work of the boys in such manner.

Oh, well. Wait 'til next year.

No comments:

Post a Comment