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Lokomotiv Sofia 2006-08, Home Shirt, Antunovic 14 UEFA Cup Match Worn

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This is a favorite among my Bulgarian shirts due to the memories attached to it. I got it on a visit to the Lokomotiv Stadium from one of the employees at the café through the assistance of my friend Yana Raycheva’s expert translations. At the time it carried with it a putrid odor—nothing a good wash couldn’t fix. As for the shirt itself, it is a standard fabric made by the Italian manufacturer Asics. Asics was a big producer of Bulgarian shirts during these years; Slavia Sofia’s shirt from the era is also made by the Italian brand. It is size Extra Large. Also, the design used by Asics is to be commended–the curvature of the stripes around the neck line add a lot to this shirt, a little detail that makes it more than just another striped kit.

What makes this shirt especially rare is that it was worn in the UEFA cup by Serbian striker Sasa Antunovic—he made 78 appearances for Lokomotiv between 2004 and 2009 netting 30 goals. In the 2007-08 edition of the UEFA cup—when this shirt was worn—Lokomotiv faced French side Rennes, losing 4-3 on aggregate over two legs. Antunovic himself even scored a brace in Lokomotiv’s surprise 2-1 first leg victory in France. The hallmarks of a player shirt include screen printed name and number in player spec size, as well as the UEFA cup patch applied in felt to the right arm and a sewn on club badge.

For video of one of the matches please see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysN8iDok3Nc

 

My Thanks to Yana Raycheva Whose Translations Were Invaluable in Acquiring This Shirt.

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Sasa Antunovic himself in the shirt:

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Courtesy of: http://www.footballdatabase.eu/football.joueurs.sasa.antunovic.23041.en.html

 

Two images of this model of shirt being worn in a match. The first is from domestic league action, the second from the 2006-07 UEFA Cup in a tie with Feyenoord of Holland:

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Courtesy Of: http://www.segabg.com/article.php?id=290343

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Courtesy Of: http://www.footmanager.net/forum/lokomotiv-sofia-t1955.html

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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Stadion Georgi Asparuhov/Gerena, Sofia, Bulgaria – PFC Levski Sofia – PFC Lokomotiv Sofia Matchday (3-0)

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A blast from the past. Below are a few pictures from the first soccer match (and derby) outside of Turkey that I ever attended. It was a good introduction to what would become my passion, a contest between Sofia’s main side Levski and one of the city’s secondary teams, Lokomotiv at the Georgi Asparuhov Stadium. The disparity in stature between the teams played out on the field as well with Levski winning comfortably, 3-0. This stadium is currently undergoing some renovations and has had its capacity reduced to 18,000, but I am fairly certain that at the time of this match its capacity was closer to 30,000. Interestingly enough, this stadium holds the record attendance for a Bulgarian “A” PFG match at 60,000 fans. How that many entered is beyond me, but I’m sure it was a torrid time. While Levski usually tend to play their European home matches at the National Stadium, the Vasil Levski, this stadium is not so obsolete–Sting played a concert here in 2011.

Since this match is over seven years old at this point I don’t have a write up for it, but I do have a short piece I wrote for an undergraduate travel writing course at the University of Colorado regarding the shirt I was able to get, which is also posted in the Football shirts category. The writing is below, followed by a few match day photos.

 

We had tried everything. We had been to the team store before the game, but the lady had shooed us away, without so much as an explanation. We had been to the team store after the game, but this time not even the woman was there. Determined not to give up, I went back into the stadium just as everyone was clearing out. The late autumn sun was setting over Sofia, and it looked like that same sun was going to set on my little adventure to find a Bulgarian soccer shirt. Soon my friend Jill and I were left in the stadium, with only the television crews still cleaning up wiring. We walked down to the gate through which we had entered, but it was locked. We walked up to the stand and continued down the stairs, and out onto the playing surface. No one, it seemed, wanted to acknowledge our presence. It was as if we were foreign ghosts. We drifted onto the field and into the stadium towards the locker rooms, aimlessly. Soon, a man came out and ushered us out.

“No, only team,” He said in accented English.

“But, shirt, shirt!” I pleaded, tugging at my shirt.

“No English, out,” the man said, ushering us back out of the tunnel and he pointed up, towards where we had come, and the television booth. We thanked the man and walked to where he had pointed, to a rickety fire escape that was to be, theoretically, used by the television crews in the event of any unfortunate situations, which were never too far away from any soccer match in Eastern Europe.

We traversed down the fire escape and found ourselves outside, in the parking lot, in the midst of a sea of media. Players were being interviewed, and I was still tugging at my shirt, desperate to find someone who spoke English to whom I might direct my query. A kind old man saw my desperation and, quietly, took my arm leading me to yet another person. Despite not knowing any English, he knew exactly what I was looking for. Was this an example of Balkan bureaucracy I wondered, inherited from the Ottoman and Soviet Empires who were both former overlords of the grand city of Sofia? The old man led me to, what I recognized at least, was the press attaché, and said a few words in Bulgarian to the man.

“So, you want a Levski shirt?” asked the attaché.

“Yes, if that is possible,” I told him, explaining that I had looked all over the city and had been to the store at the stadium twice, both before and after the game.

“Why is it so hard to find a soccer shirt?” I asked him, finally.

“Because,” he paused, “This is Bulgaria”. We both laughed, and he called his brother to open the store. Within five minutes, I had experienced the kindness of the Bulgarian people and succeeded in what had only moments ago seemed impossible.

 

A sparsely attended derby:

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The Levski Ultras:

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The (at that point) newly installed scoreboard, complete with the Levski logo–the Cyrllic “L”:

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The (male) fans nervous for their side:

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The police sense a disturbance:

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Just some Ultras lighting flares, another day at a Eastern European ground:

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The sun sets on another derby day:

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