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Developing football in Bulgaria

Bulgaria's new generation can aspire to the standards set by the 'Golden Generation' of 1994.

Bulgaria's U17s: Youth development is central to the BFU's work
Bulgaria's U17s: Youth development is central to the BFU's work ©Getty Images

Overview

In 2022, for the first time in the nation’s history, Bulgaria made it to the UEFA European Under-17 Championship: an immensely symbolic achievement as the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) aims to overcome infrastucture issues and offer the best possible environment for young players to thrive.

Shortcomings in facilities, especially in the bigger cities, are a notable issue, but the BFU’s main strategic goals are:

  • Embedding world-class organisational behaviour to ensure the federation performs well in its commercial endeavours, communication and marketing campaigns and football governance.
  • Growing every aspect of the game through the development of an innovative and joined-up grassroots pathway.
  • Working with Bulgaria’s clubs and competition organisers to ensure the sport is accessible inspirational and continuing to grow.

With the help of UEFA’s Women's Football Development Programme, the BFU are expanding horizons for female players. Some 30 coaches now employed to support girls’ teams at U11, U13, U15 and U17 levels, while a 16-tea, women’s national league is up and running. The BFU is also targeting girls aged 8-12 through its grassroots work as it seeks to expand the women’s game.

"We will build on our existing foundations and areas of strength, whilst at the same time introducing new innovations across all areas of our sport. Through our strategy, we will combine our continual ambition to deliver international success with a broad and inclusive approach to ensuring football embeds itself as the most welcoming, accessible and progressive sport in Bulgaria. Through our work, we will increase opportunities to play, improve our footballing infrastructure, develop our workforce and ensure our competitions provide the right platform to develop our talent."

Borislav Mihaylov, BFU president

UEFA support

UEFA HatTrick funding helped to build the complex that houses the BFU’s headquarters and national training centre, and is backing investment in footballing infrastructure all over the country, with artificial pitches being laid to give young players better conditions to train and play. UEFA projects are supporting the expansion of women’s football, while social integration projects are helping children deprived of parental care as well as those with learning disabilities.

UEFA Foundation for Children in Bulgaria

Set up in 2015, the UEFA Foundation uses football as a vehicle to help improve children’s lives by supporting hundreds of campaigns and projects across Europe and around the world.

Sport and play for inclusion and integration

With UEFA Foundation for Children support, World at Play is working in the Harmanli and Sofia areas to build relationships between young locals and young refugees. Initially working with them in separate groups, it is integrating them into each other’s games and showing how, through the power of sport and play, individuals can engage with one another with respect and care as equals, regardless of gender, ethnicity and background.

Timeline

Association history

1909 A group of students arriving home from Istanbul are credited with introducing football to Bulgaria and establishing the nation’s first official team. 1923 The Bulgarian National Sports Federation is founded on 1 January; a year later, Bulgaria becomes a member of FIFA. 1937 A new national league is formed, consisting of ten teams; Ticha Varna are the first champions. 1945 The first nationwide Bulgarian Cup begins; Levski Sofia win the first edition. 1954 The Bulgarian Football Federation joins European football's new governing body, UEFA. Under communist rule, the nation’s footballing championship is dominated by army team CSKA Sofia and Levski, who are linked to the interior ministry. 1971 All-conquering Levski centre-forward Georgi Asparuhov is killed in a car crash; he is regarded by many as Bulgaria’s best ever player. 1992 Hristo Stoichkov becomes the first Bulgarian to win the European Cup as his Barcelona side beat Sampdoria 1-0 in the final. The ex-CSKA star is awarded the Ballon d’Or as Europe’s best player in 1994. 2012 Ludogorets emerge on the domestic football stage, and win the first of nine league titles in a row. The team also reaches the UEFA Champions League group stage twice. 2015 Bulgaria stages the 16-team UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals. 2016 The BFU’s new House of Football opens on 17 November at Boyana, on the outskirts of Sofia. The new headquarters include three pitches, a multi-functional hall, a tennis court and a hotel. Present day

National team history

1924 On 21 May, Bulgaria lose 6-0 to Austria in Vienna in their first official international. The first national championship also kicks off, involving six clubs. 1930 Bulgaria win their first senior game, defeating Romania 5-3 in Sofia 1932 The national side outplay Romania, Yugoslavia and Greece to lift the Balkans Cup. 1968 Bulgaria win footballing silver medals at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico. 1994 Bulgaria enjoy the most successful of their seven FIFA World Cup final tournaments in the United States, finishing fourth after eliminating holders Germany in the quarter-finals. 1996 Bulgaria compete at their first EURO, failing to make it through the group stage despite a draw against Spain and a win against Romania. They lose all three games at their second finals, UEFA EURO 2004 Present day

Borislav Mihaylov
Borislav MihaylovBFU

President

Borislav Mihaylov

Nationality: Bulgarian
Date of birth: 12 February 1963
Association president since: 2005

Borislav Popov
Borislav Popov©BFU

General secretary

Borislav Popov

Nationality: Bulgarian
Date of birth: 26 November 1955
Association chief executive director since: 2006

Bulgarian Football Union website