Three weeks before Roger Waters brings his visual masterpiece, The Wall Live, to Sofia, a public row erupted in Bulgaria after the owner of football club Ludogorets Razgrad complained bitterly about a possible scheduling conflict over the use of Vassil Levski national stadium.
Ludogorets Razgrad qualified earlier this week for the Uefa Champions League play-off round by defeating Partizan Belgrade. The play-off round is due to be played on August 20/21 and August 27/28.
If the Uefa draw in Nyon on August 9 sets Ludogorets as the home team for the second match of the tie, then the club will be unable to play the match at Vassil Levski stadium, which has been booked by concert organisers Sofia Music Enterprises for the several prior to the gig.
The stadium is the only one in Bulgaria certified to host Uefa Champions League matches at this stage of the competition. This prompted an angry tirade from club owner Kiril Domouschiev in an interview with local television station bTV.
“The only stadium in Bulgaria that is licenced by Uefa and is the national stadium at that, turns out to have signed a contract, for a lengthy period, for some concert. Some colossal walls are to be built and it seems that we use the national stadium as a concert hall instead of its actual purpose,” Domuschiev said.
“Everyone knows that there are European competitions at this time of the year and the stadium is needed – it’s a paradox,” he said.
Domuschiev blamed the stadium’s management, saying his team might be forced to play its home game abroad and issued a not-so-subtle threat: “If we are going to play abroad, maybe it is best that we move the team and the investment abroad too, because it is shameful that there is not a single stadium in this country.”
In defence of the stadium’s management, Bulgarian football clubs have hardly been setting the Champions League on fire. Ludogorets, the two-time defending champions, who shot to prominence after Domuschiev began investing heavily in the club, are the first club to reach the play-off stage since Levski Sofia in 2009.
In reply to Domuschiev’s comments, Bulgaria’s Sports Minister Mariana Georgieva said on August 8 that “there is no drama” and that the team will play at Vassil Levski national stadium whatever date the draw assigns for its home match.
Georgieva did not comment on what would happen to The Wall Live. Sofia Music Enterprises have not commented on the issue yet either.
Tens of thousands of fans bought tickets for The Wall Live since November (tickets are still available at ticketpro.bg). By comparison, Ludogorets’ last home match, in the third qualifying round of the Champions League, had an attendance of 7000 people.
Vassil Levski stadium, with its 42 000 seat capacity, is routinely used as the venue for the biggest concerts in Bulgaria, with Rammstein, Metallica and Madonna on the long list of artists who played there.
(Roger Waters: The Wall Live performed on March 3 2012 at the Estadio Nacional in Santiago, Chile. Photo: gandalf.blanco/flickr.com)