Dimitrov winning the battle with Chernomorets

"I am used to fighting in my life," Dimitar Dimitrov told UEFA.com, with his efforts as PSFC Chernomorets Burgas coach taking on a new complexion after he was diagnosed with cancer.

Dimitar Dimitrov has been working wonders with home-town club Chernomorets
Dimitar Dimitrov has been working wonders with home-town club Chernomorets ©Meridian Match

One of the most respected coaches in Bulgaria, Dimitar Dimitrov is working wonders in keeping PSFC Chernomorets Burgas competitive on a tiny budget, but serious health problems have helped him to put his footballing struggles in perspective.

The 53-year-old, who coached Bulgaria in 1988 and 1989, showed the same commitment that earned him the nickname 'Hero' as a defender by leading his home-town club, Chernomorets, to a fourth-place finish last season. That he did so while undergoing treatment for stomach cancer made the Sharks' low-budget adventure all the more remarkable.

Following successful treatment, Dimitrov is focused on football once more – much to his relief. "Of course, everything is different for me now and I have a different view of life," he told UEFA.com. "A lot of things have changed. I have a special diet and regime. Now all I want is to be healthy, but probably all human beings want that. Thankfully, football helped me a lot."

After their exploits last term, Dimitrov's Sharks made a less impressive start to the 2012/13 campaign, yet a run of seven straight wins has enabled them to dart up to sixth in the A League by the winter break. In the circumstances, that is quite an achievement. "We are working under very difficult conditions as we have to sell our best players to survive," explained Dimitrov.

"Thankfully we have some fantastic youngsters like defenders Plamen Dimov and Georgi Terziev. They have improved a lot. We also have experienced players in goalkeeper Stoyan Kolev and Todor Palankov, and good foreigners such as Yannick Boli [nephew of ex-France defender Basile Boli] and Issouf Ouattara."

A European finish this season, however, may be a tall order. "As coach, I want to finish as high up the table as possible and to play in a certain fluid style, but it will be very difficult to break into the top four again," said Dimitrov, who won the title in charge of PFC Litex Lovech and PFC Levski Sofia – the latter as part of a domestic double. "One thing is certain: we will work hard and do our best to finish among the best."

That positive attitude continues into his assessment of the national side. "Bulgaria have a very good young coach in Luboslav Penev, who is working hard," Dimitrov said. "Everyone respects him and I wish him all the best and good luck in FIFA World Cup qualifying. We have some very talented players now like Georgi Milanov. Others are coming of age and the core of the side looks promising. I am really optimistic about the future."

After overcoming his health issues, Dimitrov also has reason to look forward with hope on a personal level. "Working as a coach helps me a lot and I just want to concentrate on football and not think about anything else," he said, adding: "I am used to fighting in my life."