Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry said that it detained nine football players as part of an investigation into suspected match-fixing on December 9, as part of a police operation that also seized potential evidence in the investigation.
The nine players were detained in preventive arrest, which can last up to 24 hours. Searches were carried out in six locations throughout the country and additional witnesses have been questioned, with more searches and interviews scheduled for December 10 and the coming days, the Interior Ministry said.
The ministry did not release the names of the players detained, but reports in Bulgarian media said that these included defender Alexander Tunchev, the captain of CSKA Sofia football club, who has 26 matches for the Bulgarian national team. Two former national team players – Lokomotiv Plovdiv striker Martin Kamburov, who has 15 caps, and Cherno More defender Kiril Kotev, with 13 appearances for the national side – were also reportedly detained.
Bulgarian law enforcement launched the investigation following tip-offs from the European football governing body Uefa. According to media reports, the focus of the probe appears to be on Lokomotiv Plovdiv in the first tier of Bulgarian football and Lyubimets, which finished last in the top division last year and was denied a pro licence for this season, relegating it to the amateur ranks.
Both clubs have faced such accusations in the past, but this is the first action undertaken by law enforcement to investigate the claims. Former Lokomotiv Plovdiv owner Konstantin Dinev could be questioned in the coming days, the reports claimed.
Other club owners – including Kiril Domuschiev, from defending three-time champions Ludogorets Razgrad, as well as the presidents of the traditional two powerhouses of Bulgarian football, Todor Batkov from Levski and Alexander Tomov from CSKA Sofia – welcomed the investigation.
Bulgarian Football Union president Borislav Mihailov said that the national team was not involved in the match-fixing row. “No player in the national team is involved in match-fixing. Everyone has the right to their doubts until the opposite is proven,” he told private broadcaster bTV.
(Photo: Bart Groenhuizen/sxc.hu)