8 April ~ Yesterday, CSKA Sofia reappointed former Bulgarian national team coach Dimitar Penev. While playing at CSKA for 12 years, he won 90 international caps and seven league titles. He won three more championships as CSKA coach and took Bulgaria to the semi-finals of the 1994 World Cup. His reappointment is the kind that would often see fans lining the streets in celebration. But on this occasion the CSKA fans will probably stay at home. They've had a terrible month and must be emotionally exhausted.
CSKA Sofia may well be Europe's most dysfunctional club at the moment. March started with an expose in a local paper which revealed how incredibly decrepit and dangerous CSKA's stadium is. The Sofia Echo's article disclosed that the stadium of Bulgaria's most successful club was no longer safe to run at its capacity.
Five days later, the club fired one of their star players, Daniel Bekono. The Cameroon international goalkeeper had been the first black player to captain a Bulgarian team while at his previous club Beroe Stara Zagora, and had gone on to win the league with CSKA. The 31-year-old, owner of 37 caps, a 2000 Africa Cup of Nations medal and an Olympic Gold was sacked for "disciplinary reasons" after failing to turn up to some training sessions.
On Sunday March 21, CSKA's game at Lokomotiv Mezdra was abandoned in the 65th minute. After CSKA went a goal down, 100 of their fans stormed the pitched and began throwing stones and other projectiles at players, officials, supporters and each other. There were no police at the game as Mezdra had failed to pay security taxes, so the ugly scenes continued for some time. The following day the Bulgaria Football Union (BFU) awarded Mezdra a 4-0 win and imposed a three-game stadium ban and big fine on CSKA.
Later that week, CSKA winger Orlin Orlinov was arrested by police for kidnapping and assaulting Bulgarian reality TV star Katherine Vacheva. Left with a broken nose and concussion, she told police: "He dragged me for a few metres, there was a trail of blood. He said 'you're a beautiful woman and all beautiful women deserve to be beaten'". Publically, the club seem to have almost completely ignored this event. On the day it was announced in the press, CSKA president Dimitar Borisov went to the papers threatening to pull his team out of the league in response to the BFU's "unjust" stadium ban.
An already disastrous week for CSKA ended on Saturday, March 27, with a derby against local rivals Levski Sofia, for which 1,200 police were stationed in the city. Considering that a previous meeting of the two clubs resulted in a fan getting blown up by a bomb, this number was not excessive. The game ended goalless and, subsequently, CSKA's Romanian coach Ione Andone resigned. He had only been in charge for two months and after all that had gone on in the second of these months, he cited "family reasons" for his decision.
After a good start to the season, CSKA have now only won two of their last ten league matches and have slipped to third in the standings. They are ten points behind leaders Litex Lovech with eight games remaining. It's a gap that they may well not be able to make up, even under Dimitar Penev."I'll do my best to help players get back on their feet again," Penev said yesterday. He's going to have his work cut out. Simon Cotterill