Lokomotiv Plovdiv v Spurs - view from Bulgaria Spurs
Thu 17 September 2020, 06:39|Tottenham Hotspur
Spare a thought for our fans in Bulgaria. This is the first time we’ve faced Bulgarian opposition, and you can imagine the excitement of everyone connected to our Official Supporters’ Club the country, Bulgaria Spurs.
Heartbreakingly for those fans, our historic meeting against Lokomotiv Plovdiv in the Europa League will be played behind closed doors this evening (5pm UK) as we continue to feel the knock-on effects of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s absolutely sad, and we’re devastated, especially me personally,” said Tsvetomir Iliev, chairman of Bulgaria Spurs. “It really was a unique chance for us to see the players.
“Myself and many of our members, during the last 15 years, when economic life is getting a bit better, we’ve managed to visit Tottenham for one or two matches a season. But it’s completely different to see your love, your passion, in your own country.
“I’m really sorry the match has happened during these times, because you could never imagine a few months ago that such a thing could happen. It is such a pity, so sad.”
Tsvetomir began Bulgaria Spurs in 2005 with only five members. Fifteen years later, he has over 150 on the books, and many more following on social media.
“I was a huge fan of Gary Lineker and, before 1989, it was a communist regime in Bulgaria and until, say, 1994, 1995, it was very difficult to follow any English results, any English team,” he explained. “I studied in an English language school, and I had correspondence with a lady in London, and I was begging by letter – not fax, not email – for her to send me some brochures or some postcards from Tottenham! That’s how my love for the Club and English football started.
“As a kid, you are just imagining, dreaming of watching your favourite players, your favourite team, on the TV. After the year 2000, there was much better possibility of correspondence and that was when I had the idea, with the support of my wife, and we started correspondence with Tottenham (about becoming an OSC) and after six months, they approved our application and gave us the name Bulgaria Spurs. It was a huge honour. We were just five members back then!
“My first visit to White Hart Lane was in 2007. It was unbelievable. I’ve travelled all over Europe. I’ve watched matches in Spain, Italy. Now we have 155 members, and many more in Spurs groups. There are many Bulgarians living all over the world and following Bulgaria Spurs, all sharing their opinions.”
So, what can Tsvetomir tell us about Lokomotiv Plovdiv? We know they finished fifth in the Bulgaria’s top-flight - the First League - and qualified for Europe after winning the Bulgarian Super Cup for the second successive season.
His only word of advice was not to underestimate the team from Bulgaria’s second city…
“They really have the mood for this game,” he said. “Look, you cannot compare the standard of football in Bulgaria to the Premier League, but one of the problems of bigger clubs is underestimation.
“You can expect, very briefly, and I think the comparison is very good, a match similar to when a Premier League or Championship club goes to a team in League One or League Two in the FA Cup or Carabao Cup.
“They are so motivated, playing without any responsibility on their shoulders. The stadium is very small but Lokomotiv Plovdiv, you can’t expect anything special, but they have the freedom to play and you know better than me, anything can happen, especially as it’s a one-off match on this occasion.”