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Chernomorets Stadium, Burgas, Bulgaria – PSFC Chernomorets Burgas (CLOSED)

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When I visited this forgotten piece of football history, wedged between a highway and the railroad tracks, there was no signage explaining ownership. In fact, one would have been forgiven for thinking that there had never even been a tenant for this ground. The weeds growing through the concrete would back you up on that assumption. Enter: The internet. I learned that this is in fact the old Chernomorets Stadium (its Wikipedia page has a nice picture of the ground under snow) that was built in 1954 and closed in 2006. It supposedly has a capacity of 22,000 but I couldn’t imagine that. Now, its just a reminder of urban decay (something I am personally a huge fan of). Still, a ground is a ground (and I can’t help but think that the weeds add a certain “je ne sais quoi” to this ground–the green contrasts well with the clear blue sky).

Nature reclaims what was once its own:

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Tundzha Stadium/Luskov Stadium, Yambol, Bulgaria – FC Tundzha

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I have fond memories of my visit to Yambol’s Tundzha stadium in the summer of 2009. While Wikipedia lists two capacities for this stadium–5000 and 15000–I’m inclined to believe that 5000 is the true figure. The stadium is located at the end of a beautiful park that is typically Eastern European. The interesting Soviet style apartment blocks provide a strange backdrop to the stands, as can be seen below. The current tenants, FC Tundzha (who take their name from the Tundzha river that empties in Turkey), currently play in the third level of Bulgarian football.

Finding the stadium is, quite literally, a walk in the park:

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The Tundzha River:

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Where is my dictionary when I need it?:

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An interesting–and strange–backdrop:

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The author taking in the surroundings:

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The author posing in the stands:

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Lazur Stadium, Burgas, Bulgaria – PFC Neftochimic Burgas and PSFC Chernomorets Burgas

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This is a bit of a vintage visit by now but hopefully–like a fine wine–its gotten better with age. One of the tenants from the time I visited–Naftex Burgas–has since been disbanded and reformed as the present day Neftochimik Burgas. I spent a long time in the stadium with an official who knew no english, but by way of a little bit of old fashioned body language I was able to convey to him that I wanted a shirt. Since Naftex Burgas was all but disbanded at the time I visited in early July of 2009, he supplied me with a Chernomorets Burgas shirt for which I am very grateful. I can still remember explaining to him that I lived in Austin, Texas, and his eyes widened when I pointed out “Остин” on the map in his office. Later upon returning home I was able to also find a Neftochimic Burgas shirt online.

As for the Lazur stadium it is pretty modern as Bulgarian stadiums go, with a capacity of 18,037 while boasting a 3 star rating from UEFA. Even the Bulgarian national side have played some of their games here, in addition to a few smaller Bulgarian clubs without suitably modern stadiums that qualify for European competition. At the time I visited the seats were yellow and green, to go with Naftex’s colors, but apparently they have been changed to blue (to correspond with Chernomorets’ colors).

Clearly the stadium was due some cosmetic renovations at the time of my visit:

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Some of the more right-wing Naftex hooligans have left their mark:

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3 Star Material in UEFA’s eyes:

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I wonder where this bus is now:

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The bus of the stadiums other tenants:

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Spartak Stadium, Varna, Bulgaria – PFC Spartak Varna

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I visited the Spartak Stadium in Varna on a mid-summer day, with skies as blue as the waters of the Black Sea rolling onto the shore a few blocks away. The stadium is a pretty standard Bulgarian affair, although it didn’t seem to have as many amenities as city rival Cherno More’s Ticha Stadium. The 13,000 capacity stadium is home to PFC Spartak Varna, a side whose shirt I was unable to attain at the stadium. Fortunately, I was able to find a match worn example off the internet once I got back home.

I suppose that I might have been a bit of a bad-luck charm for the side, since they ended up suffering some financial problems and ended up being relegated to the third level of Bulgarian football , the amateur V AFG, in 2010–a year after I visited. It’s a tough blow for a side that was the first Bulgarian side to appear in the now defunct UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup and that shares the name “Spartak” with their more illustrious cousins in Moscow.

 

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Id live in one of those apartments, great seats on match day:

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Skies as blue as the Black Sea:

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At least I know where I am:

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The architecture outside the stadium is…interesting:

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But its a different “interesting” than Bulgarian advertising. I actually liked Mastika–they didn’t need to go to such lengths to hook me. I’m not complaining though:

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Ticha Stadium, Varna, Bulgaria – PFC Cherno More Varna

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Varna is one of those historical cities that needs to be visited. Situated on the shores of the Black Sea, or Cherno More (which the team takes its name from, similar to Ukraine’s Chernomorets Odesa), Varna has the relaxing feel of other sea-side towns–provided you can avoid the drunken British tourists searching for cheap booze and beautiful women.

If one goes a little inland from the sea they will soon come upon one of Varna’s stadiums, the 12,500 capacity Ticha. While it is not UEFA approved, and will therefore most likely not be used once a newer stadium is built, it is in much better shape than many other Bulgarian A PFG stadiums–it was renovated in 2008 (a year before my visit) following its opening 40 years ago in 1968. Also, the fact that a shirt can be procured–through the intermediary of a female accountant–provides an added bonus.

 

The badge is pristine…the rest? Not so much:

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The fans have left their mark, albeit mis-spelled. But we all get the point:

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Nothing but blue skies on the sea shore:

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Druzhba Stadium, Kardzhali, Bulgaria – FC Arda

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As someone with an interest in Turkish populations outside of Turkey I had to visit Kardzhali, a Bulgarian town with a large number of Turks. Kircaali in Turkish, the municipality has a majority Turkish population of 55.5 percent. While visiting the city I sampled some Mastika/Menta, a delicious (and devastating) concoction consisting of Mastika–a 94 proof Bulgarian variant of the anise flavored Turkish Raki–and Menta, a mint liqueur. While in a cloud after drinking the eponymous cocktail I visited third division FC Arda‘s derelict Druzhba stadium. While Wikipedia claims the stadium’s capacity as 25.000, I’m inclined to think its more along the lines of 2.500–the photos below will tell you why. Despite its neglected stadium the tree lined boulevards of Kardzhali are a welcome respite from the urban environment of Sofia and definitely award the intrepid traveller with a relaxing provincial vibe. And don’t leave before sampling a Mastika/Menta at a watering hole in the city center.

 

The stadium from afar feels like entering no-man’s land:

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Turkish brands advertise on the stadium facade:

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The graffiti makes me wonder if there is even a groundskeeper:

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“ARDA” spray painted behind the benches:

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Lokomotiv Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria – PFC Lokomotiv Sofia

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Outside of the city center and off of a busy Sofia Boulevard a little past the main train station lies the Lokomotiv Stadium. Its pretty big with a capacity of 22,000 and is decently well-maintained since it was built in 1985. In addition to hosting games for “The Railwaymen” this ground has also seen many famous musical acts come through, including Iron Maiden and Elton John among others. It was a rainy day in late June when I visited but the rain could hardly dampen my spirits when searching for the elusive Lokomotiv shirt (there was no club shop, just a small cafe).

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The prizes of the past shine like gold:

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Walking under the gaze of legends:

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Besiktas had a tough time on their visit to Sofia:

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There have been brighter days at the Lokomotiv:

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Fans of Lokomotiv’s main city rival, Slavia Sofia, have left their mark:

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The author takes in some Ultra culture:

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Ascending from the depths:

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Just a small peak:

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Welcome to the Lokomotiv Stadium:

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I imagine that the bowels of the Lokomotiv can get very dark during a post-match press conference after a home loss:

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The author posing in front of the gates:

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