Former Bulgaria defender Ivanov dies aged 50

Bulgarian football is mourning the passing of a "great friend" after former international defender Trifon Ivanov died at the age of 50 from a heart attack.

Former Bulgarian international Trifon Ivanov, whose death was announced on Saturday
Former Bulgarian international Trifon Ivanov, whose death was announced on Saturday ©Meridian Match

Bulgarian football is mourning the sudden passing of former international defender Trifon Ivanov, who has died at the age of 50 following a heart attack.

The fearsome defender was a member of Bulgaria's greatest ever side, which reached the semi-finals of the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States. He is also remembered fondly for scoring the winner against Russia in September 1997, a goal that secured his team qualification for the World Cup in France the following year.

Having made his name with Etar Veliko Turnovo in the 1980s before moving to CSKA Sofia in 1988, he later played for Real Betis, Sevilla, Rapid Wien, Neuchâtel Xamax and Austria Wien. A winner of three Bulgarian league titles and one Bulgarian Cup, he also claimed an Austrian championship and helped Rapid to the 1996 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final, where they lost 1-0 to Paris Saint-Germain.

©Meridian Match

Renowned for his never-say-die attitude and ferocious tackling, Ivanov played 77 times for his country, scoring six goals. "More than just being a great player, Trifon was firstly a great man," read a statement by the Bulgarian Football Union [BFS].

"He had a big heart and was always ready to help. We are all deeply saddened by this terrible news and the loss of a great friend. Rest in peace, Trifon."