Levski Sofia coach Petev does U-turn and quits the club

Reuters, SOFIA

Fri, Oct 11, 2013 - Page 18

Ivaylo Petev made a sudden U-turn and left Levski Sofia on Wednesday, a day after being undressed and forced out of his first press conference by hostile fans of the 26-time Bulgarian champions.

The 38-year-old was expected to hold his first training session as coach after saying he was keen to continue his work at the club despite the fans’ hostility, but shelved his plans after reconsidering the situation and discussing it with his family.

“What happened yesterday is extremely ugly and I would not like to work in such an environment,” Petev, considered to be one of the best young coaches in the Balkan country after leading Ludogorets Razgrad to back-to-back league titles, told a press conference.

Angry Levski fans burst in shortly after the start of Petev’s presentation to the media on Tuesday and made him take off the club’s shirt, before showing him the exit because they believe he is a supporter of bitter city rivals CSKA Sofia.

Levski fans were lambasted in local media for “writing the most shameful page in the club’s history,” but remained adamant and declared they would not allow Petev to keep his post.

Petev was quoted by local media this year as saying he was a CSKA fan, adding that this had never stopped him being uncompromising against his favorite team on the field.

Petev, sacked by Ludogorets after a surprise defeat in the opening round of the domestic championship, denied having said such a thing.

“I did not say that,” Petev said. “I have no sympathy to another Sofia club.”

Petev was due to become Levski’s fourth coach this year after former players Ilian Iliev and Nikolay Mitov, and Serbian Slavisa Jokanovic, who was fired on Tuesday.

“I considered many things and I also discussed it with my family,” Petev said. “I wanted to work at Levski, but I didn’t expect that such a thing could happen in the 21st century. This is something abnormal. I’m not a criminal, I’m not a thief, but yesterday I felt exactly like that.”

Levski reacted quickly and named former Levski defender Antoni Zdravkov as Petev’s successor.

“The team will be coached by Antoni Zdravkov until the end of the year, at least,” Levski owner Todor Batkov told reporters, adding that assistant coaches Elin Topuzakov and Marian Hristov would keep their posts.

Zdravkov, who is the head of Levski’s junior academy, will make his debut in the much-anticipated Eternal Derby — as matches between Levski CSKA are known — on Oct. 19.

The Blues are sixth in the standings with 19 points, nine behind leaders Ludogorets.