In the States, fall weekends mean football. In Bulgaria, it's much the same. Here, however, the football they play and watch is what we call soccer.
Having grown up playing soccer, it's very much a sport I enjoy. But I also love football. And I've always found the often antagonistic relationship back home between football players and its fans and soccer players and its fans rather entertaining. As far as I’m concerned, they are both great sports. So here, with no football to watch, I’ve turned to watching soccer. The price is right - it's free - and, other than school, it's the best place to hear creative uses of Bulgarian curse words.
The Bulgarian soccer leagues are set up like most other European leagues. The best teams with the most money are in the "first division." The team that finishes with the best record in the first division is considered the national champion.
The next best teams are in the "second division." The clubs in the first and second divisions are fully independent and move between the divisions depending on their records. At the end of each season, the teams which finish at the bottom of the first division are relegated to the second division. They are replaced by the top clubs in the second division.
Below the second division are various regional divisions which operate in the same way. Thus, the teams finishing at the bottom of the standings in the second division are relegated to the regional divisions and replaced by the top clubs from the regional divisions.
The leagues all run on a strictly balanced schedule, with each club playing every other club in their division at home and away the same number of times.
Whenever the weather is nice and my schedule allows it, I try to catch the local team – ФК "Сливнишки герой" – in action. Right now, they are leading their division. If the club can maintain its position in the standings and secure sufficient financial backing and sponsorship, it will move up to the second division next season.
Here are a few photos from a game I attended earlier this fall.
As you can see, the stadium has seen better days. The cows grazing in the background aren’t mascots.
The home team dominated the action with cross after cross entering the box.
For some reason the opposing goalie preferred watching the action instead of making a play on the ball.
Despite this, he actually made a few saves.
In the end, however, he proved to be a sieve and gave up six goals.
The goalie for ФК "Сливнишки герой", on the other hand, saw minimal action and pitched a shutout.