PFC Lokomotiv Sofia's UEFA Cup hopes against Stade Rennais FC may rest on the shoulders of a one-time builder and petrol attendant - Kaloyan Karadzhinov.
PFC Lokomotiv Sofia's UEFA Cup hopes against Stade Rennais FC may rest on the shoulders of former builder and pump attendant Kaloyan Karadzhinov.
The Sofia Railwaymen sold their star striker Tsvetan Genkov to FC Dinamo Moskva last summer, but fans now have a new cult hero to celebrate in midfield powerhouse Karadzhinov, who is making headlines in domestic football in Bulgaria despite not making his professional debut until he was 28.
Now 30, stalwart Lokomotiv fan Karadzinov had long dreamed of playing for the club but was persistently passed over in trials. He kept his hopes up playing for a number of local sides in Sofia, like FC Dobroslavtsi and FC Kostinbrod, while working as a builder, concrete maker, petrol pump attendant and travelling salesman.
Karadzinov considered giving up before hitting a rich vein of form in 2004 at second division FC Minyor Bobov Dol and finally earned his dream move to Stefan Grozdanov's Lokomotiv in January 2005. He made his professional league debut in February 2005, scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory against PFC Litex Lovech, and has gone from strength to strength.
Subsequently capped by Bulgaria, he underlined his new status at the club with all four goals in a 4-0 win against PFC Chernomorets Burgas last Friday. "I never ever expected to score four goals in a single league game," he said. "I had only ever done this in training and scored three goals in a game during my days in the lower leagues."
Karadzinov will now look to take that form into the home leg of an intimidating looking tie against Rennes. "We have watched Rennes and they look frightening on TV, but on the pitch things will be different," said the midfielder who played in Lokomotiv's away goals defeat by Feyenoord in last season's competition.
'Crossing the Rubicon'
Grozdanov added: "I hope we will play well and get a good result before the return leg - a result that will keep our chances alive. Winning against Rennes would be like crossing the Rubicon for us. For many years Lokomotiv have not been in the big picture. Now we want to do well in the league and in Europe as well."