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Bulgaria mourns Levski great Pavel Panov

The Bulgarian football community is mourning Pavel Panov, the famed Levski Sofia forward and former national team ace who has died suddenly at the age of 67.

Former Levski Sofia and Bulgaria forward Pavel Panov
Former Levski Sofia and Bulgaria forward Pavel Panov ©UEFA

Bulgarian football is in mourning after the sudden passing of celebrated Levski Sofia and Bulgaria striker Pavel Panov. One of the country's greatest forwards and best-loved footballing personalities, Panov died aged 67 while watching Sunday's league game between Levski and Botev Plovdiv.

Born in 1950 in Sofia, Panov started his career in the youth ranks at Septemvri Sofia before making his breakthrough with Spartak Sofia in 1968. He became a star at Levski between 1969 and 1981, winning four league titles (1970, 1974, 1977 and 1979) and five Bulgarian Cups (1970, 1971, 1976, 1977 and 1979). In total, he played 309 Bulgarian top-flight matches (301 for Levski), scoring 136 goals (131 for Levski). He also scored 22 goals in 37 UEFA club competition matches.

Pavel Panov later worked for the Bulgarian FA
Pavel Panov later worked for the Bulgarian FA©Meridian Match

A winner in the 1969 International Youth tournament – the precursor to the UEFA European Under-18 Championship – Panov gave sterling service to his senior national team from 1971 onwards, scoring 13 goals in 44 games and featuring at the 1974 FIFA World Cup. He was voted Bulgarian Player of the Year for 1977.

He ended his playing days in Greece with Aris Thessaloniki, later moving into coaching with Levski, Botev Plovdiv and Lokomotiv Sofia. Latterly he worked at the Bulgarian Football Union (BFS) as a director of youth development and consultant to the different youth teams.