The name of this stadium should come as no surprise since CSKA Sofia–like both CSKA Moscow and the former CSKA Kiev in Eastern Europe–was originally an army team. CSKA stands for “Central Sports Club of the Army”, even though the link died out with the end of the Cold War; the team maintains no such ties today.

Like other Eastern European grounds, the Balgarska Armia is located in the center of the leafy Borisva Gradina (King Boris’ Garden) in Central Sofia. The trees hide the stadium from immediate view, and one can while away more than a few pleasant hours in the shady paths of the park, watching lovers stroll and young men drinking beer on the many benches. Nearer to the stadium is a small sports cafe, where Bulgarians young and old engage in what seems to be one of their favorite leisure activities: Ping Pong. I myself watched them one afternoon munching on some friend sardines and washing it all down with cold Kamenitza beer. It is definitely a nice spot to get away from it all and just suck in the small moments of a day that we all too often tend to take for granted. I’ve found that Eastern European parks–and stadia–might be some of the most pleasant urban areas in the world.

Inside the stadium–at the time that I visited–were the marks of a less relaxed time, as many of the 22,015 seats had been ripped up in what I could only assume to be the result of crowd violence. Still, one cant help but feel sympathy for the old Balgarska Armia–it was built in 1923–due to the trees that encroach on the highest seats from all sides. For some pictures of my CSKA shirt, please see the link in the “Football Shirts” section.

 

You might have to sweet talk the guards for entrance to the ground, as I had to:

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The player’s entrance feels like a Hollywood red carpet. Almost:

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The trees look to reclaim what was once theirs:

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Marks of a less relaxed time:

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Nice shade in the upper decks of the Balgarska Armia:

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Bring your dictionary for translating:

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The author takes a lonely walk:

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Where the old glories lie:

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