By: Florian Gheorghe
History was never on their side. Yet they succeeded and after just four years in the Bulgarian top-tier league, they established themselves as a true domestic dynasty.
Founded on a hot summer day just 14 years ago – on June 18, 2001 –and turning pro at the end of the 2009 – 2010 season, PFC Ludogorets Razgradhas a story worthy of the epic fairy tales. Just like in the fairy tales, the reckling child of the Bulgarian football grew in 5 years like others in 67. Just under a month ago, Ludogorets equaled a record set by the bigger brother, powerhouse PFC CSKA Sofia 60 years ago. They became only the second Bulgarian football team to win the top-tier division four consecutive times. And that happened three years after they achieved the treble in the first ever season in A PFG, only the third team to manage such a feat – CSKA and Levski Sofia are the other two.
The team’s deeds don’t end up here as they showed in the European competitions that no matter your age and experience, with the right attitude and of course, the generosity of a rich businessman, anything is possible. Ludogorets finished ahead of PSV Eindhoven and Dinamo Zagreb in the 2013 – 2014 UEFA Europa League group stage and eliminated Italian powerhouse Lazio Roma in the round of 32. Last year, they qualified for the UEFA Champions League group stage after finishing off Serbian champs Partizan Belgrade and Romanian side Steaua Bucharest. There they earned the first UCL points in Bulgarian modern history. Besides “The Eagles” – the nickname of the club – only Levski Sofia reached the UCL group stage in 2006 – 2007 season.
More of the same in the years to come? You bet! Especially when the club has businessman Kiril Domuschiev on its side. A big CSKA fan and with a fortune estimated at over 500 million euros, Domuschiev bought Ludogorets in September 2010 and propelled it to the top of the Bulgarian football in no time. With him in charge, the Eagles won the A PFG four times, the National Cup two times and the Supercup once. Now he’s on the verge of making more history if Ludogorets advances to the best of 32 in the most notorious inter-club football competition in the world. No other Bulgarian team managed to qualify twice in the UCL group stage.
The preparations for the new season are almost over as the team restarted and appointed a new coach – Portuguese Bruno Ribeiro. Ribeiro is a close friend to Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and hopes to receive help from the English side.
“There’s a possibility for some Chelsea players to come to Ludogorets. I’ll talk to Mourinho and we’ll see if this can happen, we need three or four player new players…But he’ll help us in any case,”the new coach explained.
The first step towards European history begins three weeks from now against Moldavian champs FC Milsami Orhei in the second qualifying round. Can Ludogorets repeat and advance to the UCL group stage once more?