Bulgaria’s volleyball quagmire deepens

The meeting of Bulgaria’s volleyball federation on June 14 in Pravets was expected to help solve the crisis surrounding the national team; instead, it felt as just another stage in a journey that does not appear to be over yet.

In series of media interviews prior to the meeting, federation president Dancho Lazarov refused to say whether he will tender his resignation, as demanded by the team’s former head coach Radostin Stoichev.

Stoichev and Lazarov have long been at odds, with the federation attempting to sack Stoichev in May, only to later recant, although the coach said he would only stay on for the final Olympic qualification tournament, unless Lazarov resigned and a new federation managing board was elected.

On June 11, Stoichev carried out his threat and resigned after Bulgaria’s team qualified for the London Olympics, beating Pakistan, France and Egypt over the weekend in Sofia.

He said that the reasons for his resignation were Lazarov’s alleged conflict of interests, the lack of transparency with how the federation spent its generous Government allocation and the federation’s failure to draw up a five-year strategy for the development of the sport, which was one of the conditions in Stoichev’s personal contract when he took on the job in 2011.

The national team’s star player, Matei Kaziyski, who plays for Stoichev at club level as well, followed suit and resigned from the team in support of his coach.

“I am very disappointed with the federation and its decisions”, Kaziyski said at a news conference. “I think that those decisions are provoked by personal interests and goals, which are incompatible with the national team. After everything that happened after the previous qualifier, I demand that those people resign.”

In Pravets on June 14, Lazarov said that he had no intention of resigning, nor did he care that the public opinion is strongly opposed to his stewardship of the federation. He also refused to address the allegations of conflict of interest.

“I don’t want to insult Radostin Stoichev”, Lazarov said in an interview for Nova TV’s breakfast show. “He is a proven club coach, but hasn’t done anything of great significance for Bulgaria.”

The team is due to play its next World League qualifying matches in Argentina at the weekend and will be led by Stoichev’s assistants, Naiden Naidenov and Georgi Petrov. However, the outcome of the qualification this year is less important, because as host of the final tournament, Bulgaria is already qualified.

More important for the team’s future and Lazarov’s hold on the federation will be the team’s performance in that final tournament, as well as the London Olympics, but also the outcome of an inspection ordered by the Finance Ministry into how the federation spent its Government allocation.

It remains unclear who will be appointed the team’s head coach on a permanent basis, with former coach Martin Stoev and former captain Plamen Konstantinov, said to be in the mix.

Stoev and Konstantinov both left the team after the Beijing Olympics – the former fired for the team’s poor performance and the latter in disgust over the federation’s poor handling of his alleged doping result (later proven to be a false alarm).

Konstantinov has already taken his name out of the running and Stoev, despite leading the team to third-place finishes in the 2006 world championship and 2007 world cup, has clashed with leading players in the past.

While speculation continued, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said in a phone interview for Nova TV’s breakfast show on Friday, that neither Stoichev, nor Lazarov are right anymore. “They could have waited until after the Olympics to have their argument”, Borissov said.

In an interview with the TV7 cable channel Sports Minister Svilen Neykov said that Stoev will not be the head coach and Kaziyski will rejoin the team for the Olympics. “We shall do our best to preserve the team for the Olympics in London”, Neykov said. “I am not aware of any decision for the appointment of Martin Stoev as head coach. There are many options in which Kaziyski will be in the team for the Olympics. ”

(Photo: Bulgarian Volleyball Federation)




Hristina Dimitrova

Hristina Dimitrova has more than a decade of journalistic experience and is a senior editor at The Sofia Globe; previously she has worked in both online and print media, having started her career at The Sofia Echo.