Bulgarian midfielder Petrov ends career with testimonial at Celtic Park
Bulgaria’s former national football team captain Stiliyan Petrov made his good-byes in front of a full Celtic Park on September 8, in a match more likely to be remembered for the heavy tackle that left One Direction star Louis Tomlinson sick on the sidelines.
Tomlinson was one of several celebrities who, alongside former and current footballers, took part in the #19Legends match that pitched a Celtic XI side versus a Petrov XI.
Tomlinson, the boy-band heartthrob signed as a non-contract player by his hometown team Doncaster in aid of a children’s hospice, found himself on the receiving end of a clattering tackle by Aston Villa forward Gabriel Agbonlahor. He struggled to continue after the tackle and was later sick on the sidelines.
The incident drew the ire of One Direction fans on Twitter, some of the abuse directed against Agbonlahor even going as far as death threats, according to reports in British media. Agbonlahor later said that he would apologise to Tomlinson when they meet next.
In all, the incident and the aftermath provided an unwelcome distraction from the focus of the occasion – Petrov and his foundation meant to help leukaemia patients.
Petrov was forced to end his professional career after being diagnosed with acute leukaemia in March 2012, after the midfielder felt sluggish during Aston Villa’s league match against Arsenal – he has since responded well to treatment and his cancer is in remission. Petrov retired in May, accepting an offer to become an assistant development coach at Aston Villa.
After the match, Petrov completed a lap of honour in front of a full Celtic Park – the midfielder has always been popular with Celtic fans during his seven-year spell with the club (and ticket sales for the testimonial received an additional boost when Tomlinson and Westlife singer Nicky Byrne confirmed their participation).
“You showed the world how special this place is,” he told fans. “Thank you for standing by me when I had the hardest time in my life.”
The match itself ended with a 5-3 win for the Petrov XI, with Fulham and former Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov scoring a hat-trick for the side fielded by his former team-mate. The match also featured a number of current and retired players, including John Terry, Henrik Larsson, Pierre van Hooijdonk, Shay Given and Martin Petrov.
To watch the full match, visit Celtic FC’s YouTube channel. Agbonlahor’s challenge on Tomlinson can be seen here.
(Screengrab from YouTube.)