PFC Levski Sofia

Football club
Levski Sofia
PFC Levski Sofia.svg
Full nameПрофесионален Футболен Клуб „Левски“ София
Professional Football Club Levski Sofia
Nickname(s)Сините (The Blues)
Отбора на народа (The Team of the People)
Синята лавина (The Blue Avalanche)
Short nameLEV
Founded24 May 1914; 108 years ago (1914-05-24)
GroundVivacom Arena - Georgi Asparuhov
Capacity25,000
ShareholdersNasko Sirakov (86.6%)
Blue Bulgaria Trust (10%)
Minority shareholders (3.4%)
Head coachStanimir Stoilov
LeagueFirst League
2021–22First League, 4th of 14
WebsiteClub website
Home colours
Away colours
Third colours
Current season
SC Levski Sofia
Football pictogram.svg Football pictogram.svg Basketball pictogram.svg
Football
(Men's)
Football B
(Men's)
Basketball
(Men's)
Basketball pictogram.svg Volleyball (indoor) pictogram.svg Volleyball (indoor) pictogram.svg
Basketball
(Women's)
Volleyball
(Men's)
Volleyball
(Women's)
Ice hockey pictogram.svg Athletics pictogram.svg Gymnastics (artistic) pictogram.svg
Ice hockey Athletics Gymnastics
Boxing pictogram.svg Weightlifting pictogram.svg Wrestling pictogram.svg
Boxing Weightlifting Wrestling
Judo pictogram.svg Rowing pictogram.svg Shooting pictogram.svg
Judo Rowing Shooting
Tennis pictogram.svg Canoeing (slalom) pictogram.svg Karate pictogram.svg
Tennis Kayaking Karate
Sambo pictogram.svg Chess pictogram.svg
Sambo Chess

Levski Sofia (Bulgarian: Левски София) is a Bulgarian professional association football club based in Sofia, which competes in the First League, the top division of the Bulgarian football league system. The club was founded on 24 May 1914 by a group of high school students, and is named after Vasil Levski, a Bulgarian revolutionary renowned as the national hero of the country.

Levski has won a total of 74 trophies, including 26 national titles, 26 national cups and 3 supercups, as well as 13 domestic Doubles and 1 Treble. It is also the only Bulgarian football club to have never been relegated from the top division since the establishment of the league system in 1937.[1] Levski has reached the quarter-finals of UEFA competitions for five times, was runner-up of the Balkans Cup twice, and in 2006, it became the first Bulgarian club to reach the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.

The team's regular kit colour is all-blue. Levski's home ground is the Vivacom Arena - Georgi Asparuhov in Sofia, which has a capacity of 25,000 spectators. The club's biggest rivals are CSKA Sofia, and matches between the two capital sides are commonly referred to as the Eternal derby of Bulgaria. Levski also contests the Oldest capital derby with Slavia Sofia. The club is a regular member of the European Club Association and the European Multisport Club Association.[2][3]

History

1914–1969: Sports Club Levski

"At the founding meeting at the Hillock, I suggested Vasil Levski as our namesake because I didn't want foreign influence to our club's name, and because I admired the Apostle of Freedom and saw him as an example of bravery, agility and heroism, of boundless love for the people and willingness to sacrifice in the name of the people."

—Boris Vasilev, one of Levski's founders, on choosing the name for the club[4]

First kit (1914–1920)

Sports Club Levski was founded in 1911 by a group of students from the Second Male High School in Sofia.[5] The club's name was chosen in honour of the Bulgarian revolutionary Vasil Levski, and the club was officially registered on 24 May 1914.

In 1914, Levski lost its first official match against FK 13 Sofia with the score of 2–0. Between 1914 and 1920, football wasn't a popular sport in Bulgaria, and no additional information about the club exists. In the summer of 1921, the Sofia Sports League was established, which united ten clubs from Sofia and marked the beginning of organized football competitions in the city. Levski won the first match in the championship in the 1921–22 season, held on 18 September 1921, against Atletik Sofia with the score of 3–1. The team captured first place in the league in 1923 after a 3–2 win over bitter rivals Slavia Sofia, and successfully defended the title the following season.

The first National Championship was held in 1924 with Levski representing Sofia. The team went on to win the title in 1933, 1937 and 1942, and established itself as the most popular football club in Bulgaria.[citation needed] In 1929, Levski became the first semi-professional football club in Bulgaria, after twelve players staged a boycott of the team in demand of financial remuneration and insurance benefits. The same year Levski met its first international opponents, losing to Gallipoli Istanbul 1–0 and winning against Kuban Istanbul 6–0. Between 1930 and 1932, Levski won the Ulpia Serdica Cup for three consecutive years and was permanently awarded the trophy as a result.

Levski kit during a large part of the 1940s–1960s [6]

After World War II, Levski became one of the two top clubs in Bulgaria. After winning the championship in 1946, 1947, 1949, 1950 and 1953, Levski would not capture the domestic title again until the mid-1960s. In 1949, the authorities changed the club's name to Dinamo following the Soviet traditions, but after the de-Stalinization of Bulgaria, it was reverted in 1957. The 1960s were marked with return to success both on the domestic and on the international stage. Levski's academy would become the most successful in national youth competitions for the years to come, and the results were first seen in the likes of Georgi Asparuhov, Georgi Sokolov, Biser Mihaylov, Kiril Ivkov, Ivan Vutsov, Stefan Aladzhov and Aleksandar Kostov, assisted by experienced veterans like Stefan Abadzhiev, Dimo Pechenikov and Hristo Iliev, which resulted in winning the championship in 1965, 1968 and 1970, including the 7–2 triumph over new bitter rivals CSKA Sofia in 1968. In the 1965–66 European Cup, Levski was eliminated in the first round by Benfica with 5–4 on aggregate.

1969–1985: Levski-Spartak

In January 1969, Levski was forcibly merged with Spartak Sofia by the Bulgarian Communist Party, and put under the auspice of the Ministry of Interior Affairs.[7] The name of the club was once again changed, this time to Levski-Spartak.

A new crop of youngsters in the likes of Kiril Milanov, Dobromir Zhechev, Pavel Panov, Stefan Pavlov, Yordan Yordanov, Stefan Staykov, Tomas Lafchis, Todor Barzov, Voyn Voynov, Georgi Tsvetkov, Plamen Nikolov, and Rusi Gochev not only found their place in the first team, but brought new league titles in 1974, 1977, 1979, 1984 and 1985. On the international stage, the team reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1969–70 and 1976–77, and the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup in 1975–76. In the latter, Levski defeated Barcelona 5–4 in the second leg, becoming one of the two European teams (alongside Bayern Munich) to have scored five or more goals in one match against Barcelona in official UEFA competitions.[8] Additionally, Levski became the only Bulgarian club to eliminate a German champion after defeating VfB Stuttgart in the first round of the 1984–85 European Cup. They also eliminated Stuttgart a year earlier in the first round of the 1983–84 UEFA Cup.

1985–1989: Vitosha Sofia

The name of the team was changed to Vitosha by the authorities following the disruptions during and after the Bulgarian Cup final in 1985.[9] The game ran on high emotions fuelled by the streak of consecutive victories of Levski over CSKA in the two years prior to the game. During the game, which CSKA won 2–1, there were confrontations both on the field and on the stands.[9] By decree of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party, some of the leading players of both clubs were suspended from the sport for life.[9] The championship title of the club for 1985 was suspended. However, the suspensions were lifted shortly after.[9] Levski won another cup and league titles in 1986 and 1988, respectively. The fourth European quarter-final came in 1986–87, when Levski knocked out the 1985–86 Danish Cup winners Boldklubben 1903 and the 1985–86 Yugoslav Cup holders Velež Mostar, before losing to the 1985–86 Copa del Rey winners Real Zaragoza.

Starting lineup versus Schalke 04 (2006 UEFA Cup quarter-final, first leg)

1989–2009: Return of Levski Sofia and the Blue Tale

After the 1989–90 season, the club regained its original name. The team was made up of players such as Plamen Nikolov, Petar Hubchev, Tsanko Tsvetanov, Emil Kremenliev, Zlatko Yankov, Georgi Slavchev, Ilian Iliev, Daniel Borimirov, Stanimir Stoilov, Velko Yotov, Plamen Getov, Nikolay Todorov and Nasko Sirakov, and won three consecutive domestic national championships in 1993, 1994 and 1995. Levski contributed seven players (Tsvetanov, Kremenliev, Yankov, Sirakov, Nikolov, Petar Aleksandrov, and Borimirov), more than any other Bulgarian team, to the Bulgaria national football team that finished in fourth place at the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

In 2005–06, Levski reached the quarter-finals of the 2005–06 UEFA Cup after knocking out the 2004–05 Coupe de France winners Auxerre in the first round, finishing above SC Heerenveen, Dinamo București and the reigning title holders CSKA Moscow in the group stage, triumphing over Champions League participants Artmedia Bratislava and Udinese in the knockout stages, before being eliminated by Schalke 04.

Levski against Werder Bremen at the National Stadium in the Champions League

Levski, as the champions of Bulgaria, started their 2006–07 UEFA Champions League participation in the second qualifying round, where they eliminated Georgian champions Sioni Bolnisi, defeating them 2–0 both home and away. In the third round, Levski faced the Italian team Chievo Verona, which took part in the tournament because of other clubs' sanctions as part of the 2006 Serie A matchfixing scandal. Levski eliminated Chievo after a decisive 2–0 win in Sofia and a 2–2 draw in Verona, and thus became the first Bulgarian club to ever reach the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.[10] There, they faced the title holders Barcelona, Premier League champions Chelsea, and Werder Bremen.[11] They lost all six games and scored only one goal, in the second round against Chelsea.[9]

Levski's 2005–06 UEFA Cup run and the participation in the Champions League group stage were considered the club's greatest European successes in the 21st century, hence the period in which this happened (2005–2007) was informally called the Blue Tale.[12]

Levski earned a place in the 2008–09 UEFA Champions League after the Bulgarian league champions CSKA Sofia failed to obtain a UEFA license.[13] Levski lost to BATE Borisov of Belarus in the third qualifying round.

2009–2020: Downfall

During the 2009–10 season, Levski's team started their European campaign with a 9–0 (on aggregate) win against UE Sant Julià in the second qualifying round of the 2009–10 UEFA Champions League. In the next round, Levski Sofia faced FK Baku, eliminating the team from Azerbaijan with 2–0 on aggregate. In the play-off round, Levski was eliminated by Debrecen with 4–1 on aggregate. As one of the play-off losers, Levski qualified for the 2009–10 UEFA Europa League. In the group stage, Levski faced Villarreal, Lazio and Red Bull Salzburg. Levski achieved only one win and five defeats. Levski won against Lazio in Italy, after Hristo Yovov scored the winning goal in the match.

Levski started the 2010–11 season with a match against Dundalk, in a second qualifying round of the 2010–11 UEFA Europa League. Levski won the first match 6–0.[14] In the return leg at Oriel Park, Levski defeated Dundalk 2–0 with two first half goals from Garra Dembélé. In the next round Levski played against Kalmar FF. The first match ended 1–1 in Sweden. In the return leg in Sofia, Levski won 5–2. In between, The Blues defeated their archrival CSKA Sofia in the Eternal derby with 1–0. Their next match in the Europa League saw them play against AIK Fotboll from Stockholm, Sweden. The first match ended in a goalless draw, and after the game, AIK hooligans attacked the Levski players and staff.[citation needed] The second match ended in a 2–1 home win for Levski. Goals scored by Daniel Mladenov and Garra Dembélé put Levski in the Europa League group stage. Levski was drawn in Group C, facing Gent, Lille and Sporting CP. The first match was played against Gent at home, which Levski won 3–2 with the winning goal scored by Serginho Greene. With this win, Levski recorded eight consecutive games without a defeat in European competitions. After that, Levski lost to Sporting CP with 5–0, followed by another defeat against Lille. In Sofia, Levski played well against Lille and was leading 2–1 until Ivo Ivanov scored an own goal to make it 2–2. In the last match of the Group C, Levski took a win against Sporting CP with 1–0, with the winning goal scored by Daniel Mladenov.

In the following 2011–12 season, in the third qualifying round of the Europa League, Levski were eliminated by Spartak Trnava of Slovakia, following a late game 2–1 win in Sofia, and a loss of the same scoreline in Trnava. The penalty shoot-out costed Levski a place in the play-off round. This caused an upset with the fans and players,[citation needed] and the team barely clinched the fourth place at the winter break in the Bulgarian league. Albeit only three points from the leaders Ludogoretz Razgrad, the acting manager Georgi Ivanov was sacked from the position, but remained at the club as a sporting director. Nikolay Kostov was appointed the new manager of the club, giving the supporters a sense of optimism, which, however, faded after a cup knock-out in the hands of Lokomotiv Plovdiv and a home defeat to Minyor Pernik. Kostov handed in his resignation, leaving the managerial post once again vacant. Sporting director Georgi Ivanov once again stepped in to help the club, and accepted being the manager until the summer break, when a new one would be appointed.

Levski Sofia ultras during a derby match against CSKA Sofia

During the summer of 2012, former player Ilian Iliev was appointed the new manager of the club. Under his management, Levski was knocked out from the Europa League by Bosnian side FK Sarajevo. Iliev led the team to 13 league victories and to the semi-finals of the Bulgarian Cup after eliminating Cherno More Varna and Litex Lovech on the away goals rule. Iliev however was sacked after a 1–1 away draw against Pirin Gotse Delchev. Assistant manager Nikolay Mitov took over the team until the end of the season. Under his management Levski won the derby clashes against Litex, CSKA and Ludogorets but failed to win the title after a 1–1 home draw against Slavia Sofia. Levski also reached their first Bulgarian Cup final since 2007, but lost on penalties against Beroe Stara Zagora. Despite the missed opportunity of winning a trophy, Mitov's contract was renewed for the 2013–14 season. However, the team made another disappointing performance in Europa League, being eliminated by the Kazakh side Irtysh Pavlodar. As a result, Nikolay Mitov resigned as manager.

In July 2013 Slaviša Jokanović was appointed as the new manager of the team. Despite losing only two matches in twelve games, Jokanović was released in October 2013. Ivaylo Petev was announced as his successor but during his introduction a few Levski supporters interrupted it, stating that they would not accept his appointment.[15] The next day, Petev refused to take charge of the team and Antoni Zdravkov was named as the new manager. Under his reign the team suffered a heavy 3–0 loss against rivals CSKA, but managed to knock them out in the Bulgarian Cup in December 2013 after penalties. Due to the difficult financial situation, a few key players, such as Antonio Vutov and Garry Rodrigues, were sold to Udinese and Elche, respectively, during the winter break. This reflected on the team's performance and Levski finished fifth and got knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Bulgarian Cup by Botev Plovdiv. Antoni Zdravkov was sacked in March 2014, and Levski legend Elin Topuzakov took charge as a caretaker until the end of the 2013–14 season. The club did not participate in European competitions for the first time since 1990–91.

On 23 May 2014, the club supporters organized a friendly game against Lazio, marking the 100th anniversary of the club. Club icons like Georgi Ivanov, Dimitar Ivankov, Aleksandar Aleksandrov, Hristo Yovov, Elin Topuzakov and many other former players and celebrities took participation by playing in the game, as well as donating money for the event's organization.[16] The next day, Levski marked 100 years since its founding.[17]

The following years were arguably the darkest in the club's history. League-wise, Levski managed to finish higher than third place only once (runners-up in 2015–16), and achieved its lowest ever ranking (seventh place in 2014–15 and eighth in 2020–21).[18] On the stage of the Bulgarian Cup, the club lost two more finals, in 2015 to Cherno More[19] and in 2018 to Slavia Sofia.[20] In European competitions, Levski faced some of its most embarrassing eliminations – against Liechtenstein side FC Vaduz[21] and Cypriot AEK Larnaca, the latter inflicting the largest ever European defeat on aggregate for Levski (0–7).[22]

These years were turbulent not only on the football pitch, but at the higher hierarchy of the club. In June 2015, the long-time president Todor Batkov stepped down and the club was taken over by Ivo Tonev, Aleksandar Angelov and Nikolay Ivanov.[23] From this point onwards, Levski began to experience financial problems. Tonev, Angelov and Ivanov's reign was short-lived and in August 2016, they transferred their shares to businessman Spas Rusev.[24] Under his governance, Levski signed players like Gabriel Obertan and Jordi Gómez, as well as coach Delio Rossi, in an attempt to return the club's glory. However, Rusev's financing was dubious, and there were complaints for delayed wages.[25] In February 2017, Rusev admitted the club was "practically bankrupt".[26] On 9 February 2019, Rusev stepped down as owner of Levski, leaving the club with more than 30 million BGN in debt.[27] Four days later, businessman and former owner of archrivals CSKA Vasil Bozhkov took over the club.[28] He attempted to stabilize Levski's financial situation by immediately covering the most urgent obligations and selling or releasing the players with the highest wages, investing around 25 million BGN in total throughout his tenure.[29] In February 2020, Bozhkov stepped down as his main business, 7777.bg (National Lottery), had its license withdrawn by the Bulgarian government.[30] The club being left with no financing whatsoever and in a full-scale financial crisis,[31] sparkled an unprecedented support campaign amongst the fans, who engaged in various donation initiatives, raising 2.6 million BGN in the span of five months.[32]

In 2021, former owner Vasil Bozhkov admitted that he was forced to take over Levski under the threat of business closure by prime minister Boyko Borisov.[33] Bozhkov's confession was somewhat of a confirmation of the insinuation that the reason behind Levski's financial problems and occasional ownership changes was Borisov's idea of using the club as an instrument for political influence.[34]

2020–present: Return of Sirakov and Stoilov

Stanimir Stoilov (left) and the 2022 Bulgarian Cup trophy (right), won by Levski in May 2022

In the summer of 2020, club legend Nasko Sirakov took charge of the majority of shares and the club made some financial cuts, forcing a big part of the players (mainly foreigners) to leave. Levski also changed its transfer policy, signing mainly Bulgarian and homegrown players with lower salaries, allowing the club to start paying off some of the debt accumulated throughout the years. Sirakov set a target for the club to clear most of the debt by 2023, mostly through sponsorship deals, outgoing transfers, television rights and the fans' financial support.[35]

On 1 September 2021, Sirakov announced the return of the club's most successful manager in the 21st century, also known as the "author" of the Blue Tale, Stanimir Stoilov. At that time, Levski was in 10th place in the league standings with 4 defeats and 2 wins in the first 6 games. With his arrival, Stoilov released three players – Simeon Slavchev, Valeri Bojinov and Hristofor Hubchev, and signed José Córdoba from Etar and Dimitar Kostadinov from Septemvri Sofia. Under his management, the team managed to improve promptly, earning 20 points by the end of the half-season with 5 wins, 5 draws, and 3 defeats.

On 15 May 2022, Levski won the Bulgarian Cup by defeating its biggest rivals CSKA 1–0 in the final, thus ending the club's longest ever trophyless period (13 years). It was a record 26th cup for the Blues.[36] By winning the cup, the team earned a place in the UEFA Europa Conference League qualifications. In the second qualifying round, they faced PAOK, who reached the quarter-finals of the same competition the previous season. Despite being considered underdogs, Levski managed to eliminate the Greek team 3–1 on aggregate.[37] However, Levski crashed out of the tournament in the third qualifying round after an upsetting home defeat on penalties at the hands of Maltese side Ħamrun Spartans.[38][39]

Honours

Type Competition Achievement Seasons
Domestic First League[40] 26 titles 1933, 1937, 1942, 1946, 1947, 1948–49, 1950, 1953, 1964–65, 1967–68, 1969–70, 1973–74, 1976–77, 1978–79, 1983–84, 1984–85, 1987–88, 1992–93, 1993–94, 1994–95, 1999–2000, 2000–01, 2001–02, 2005–06, 2006–07, 2008–09
Bulgarian Cup[41] 26 titles 1942, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1956, 1957, 1958–59, 1966–67, 1969–70, 1970–71, 1975–76, 1976–77, 1978–79, 1983–84, 1985–86, 1990–91, 1991–92, 1993–94, 1997–98, 1999–2000, 2001–02, 2002–03, 2004–05, 2006–07, 2021–22
Bulgarian Supercup[42] 3 titles 2005, 2007, 2009
Sofia Championship[43] 11 titles 1922–23, 1923–24, 1924–25, 1928–29, 1932–33, 1936–37, 1941–42, 1942–43, 1944–45, 1945–46, 1947–48
Cup of Bulgaria[44] 1 titleS 1981–82[a]
Cup of the Soviet Army[45] 3 titles 1983–84, 1986–87, 1987–88
Ulpia Serdika Cup[46] 4 titles 1926, 1930, 1931, 1932
International UEFA Europa League[b] 2 times
Quarter-finals
1975–76, 2005–06
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup 3 times
Quarter-finals
1969–70, 1976–77, 1986–87
Balkans Cup[47] 2 times
Runners-up
1960–61, 1961–63
Doubles The Double[41][48] 13 times 1942, 1946, 1947, 1948–49, 1950, 1969–70, 1976–77, 1978–79, 1983–84, 1993–94, 1999–2000, 2001–02, 2006–07
Trebles The Treble[41][48][49] 1 timeS 1983–84[c]
  •   Record
  • S Shared record
  1. ^ Unofficial tournament
  2. ^ Known as UEFA Cup before 2009
  3. ^ A Group, Bulgarian Cup, and Cup of the Soviet Army

European record

As of 11 August 2022.

Levski Sofia record in European football by competition
Competition S P W D L GF GA GD
UEFA Champions League / European Cup 15 58 15 14 29 74 82 –8
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup / European Cup Winners' Cup 11 36 14 5 17 70 55 +15
UEFA Europa League / UEFA Cup 26 112 41 25 46 144 150 –6
UEFA Europa Conference League 1 4 2 1 1 5 3 +2
UEFA Intertoto Cup 1 6 2 2 2 12 11 +1
Balkans Cup 3 23 8 8 7 35 24 +11
Mitropa Cup 1 2 1 0 1 1 5 –4
Intertoto Cup Ernst Thommen 1 4 3 0 1 12 5 +7
Total 59 245 86 55 104 353 335 +18

Recent seasons

League positions

First Professional Football LeagueBulgarian A Football Group
Season Position G W D L GS GA P Bulgarian Cup Bulgarian Supercup Champions League Europa League Conference League
2012–13 2 30 22 5 3 59 20 71 Runners-up Second qualifying round
2013–14 5 38 19 5 14 59 39 62 Quarter-finals First qualifying round
2014–15 7 32 17 5 10 66 33 56 Runners-up
2015–16 2 32 16 8 8 36 18 56 Quarter-finals
2016–17 3 36 18 9 9 50 31 63 Round of 16 Second qualifying round
2017–18 3 36 18 10 8 55 27 64 Runners-up Second qualifying round
2018–19 3 36 20 6 10 64 37 66 Round of 16 First qualifying round
2019–20 4 31 15 8 8 50 30 53 Semi-finals Second qualifying round
2020–21 8 32 11 8 13 34 32 41 Quarter-finals
2021–22 4 31 15 7 9 38 27 52 Winners
2022–23 Runners-up Third qualifying round
Key
  • G = Games played
  • W = Games won
  • D = Games drawn
  • L = Games lost
  • GS = Goals scored
  • GA = Goals against
  • P = Points

Club symbols

Names and crests

Vasil Levski, club's patron

The first club crest was designed by Mircho Kachulev in 1922. Initially in the size of a square with a blue background, it was intentionally written in a stylized letter "Л" (Bulgarian letter "L"; shortened for Levski). The inner space of the letter was filled vertically equally in yellow and red colours. In a later period of time, the Cyrillic letters "С" (Sport) and "К" (club) were added at the top of the square, while the bottom side was inscribed with the name "Sofia". This badge was used by the club until 1949, when it was renamed to Dinamo.

From 1949 to 1956, the emblem of the club was an irregular hexagon filled with vertical red, white, blue and yellow colours, with an inscribed handwritten Cyrillic letter "Д", alongside a five-pointed red star above it and the word "Sofia" underneath. From 1957 to 1968 the original logo of the club was restored, however the letters C" and "К" were replaced with "Ф" (Athletic) and "Д" (union).

After the merger with Spartak Sofia in 1969, the club crest has been a shield in blue and white with a horizontal red bar above. The shield spawned the letters "Л" and "C", an abbreviation of the new name Levski-Spartak. The football club used this crest until 1985, when it was renamed Vitosha. Vitosha's crest was in the form of a stylized letter "C" surrounding the football in the upper curve of the letter, coloured in blue and white.

In January 1990, the club restored its original name and original logo, and the letters "C" and "K" in the upper corner of the blue square were replaced with the initials "Ф" (football) and "K" (club). However, due to legal issues with the ownership of the rights to the historic crest, the club was forced to change it in 1998, when a brand new shield logo was introduced, entirely in blue. At its centre, an inscription of the letter "Л" was introduced, alongside the year of establishment – 1914. The dome of the shield was labelled "PFC Levski".

After winning the legal dispute for the rights to the historic emblem in 2006, the club decided to use the two different crests simultaneously for a brief period of time. Later that year, the shield crest was replaced by the classic square emblem.

The Cyrillic letter Л (L) is used today as the club's kit crest and on its social media channels.

  • First crest (1922)

    First crest (1922)

  • Sports Club Levski Sofia (1923–1944)

    Sports Club Levski Sofia (1923–1944)

  • Professional Athletic Union Levski Sofia (1944–1949)

    Professional Athletic Union Levski Sofia (1944–1949)

  • Dinamo Sofia (1949–1957)

    Dinamo Sofia (1949–1957)

  • Athletic Union Levski Sofia (1957–1969)

    Athletic Union Levski Sofia (1957–1969)

  • State Athletic Union Levski-Spartak (1969–1985)

    State Athletic Union Levski-Spartak (1969–1985)

  • Vitosha Sofia (1985–1989)

    Vitosha Sofia (1985–1989)

  • Levski-Spartak (1989–1990)

    Levski-Spartak (1989–1990)

  • Levski Sofia (1990–1992, 2006–2014)

    Levski Sofia (1990–1992, 2006–2014)

  • Levski 1914 (1992–1998)

    Levski 1914 (1992–1998)

  • PFC Levski 1914 (1998–2006)

    PFC Levski 1914 (1998–2006)

  • Centenary crest (2014)

    Centenary crest (2014)

  • Modified version of the centenary crest (2014–present)

    Modified version of the centenary crest (2014–present)

  • Official kit crest

    Official kit crest

Club anthem

The first anthem of Levski was written by renowned Bulgarian poet Dimcho Debelyanov and composed by Lyubomir Pipkov.[50][51] Since 1999, the club anthem is "Само Левски шампион"[52] (Only Levski, the champion), composed by Stefan Dimitrov.[53]

Players

First team

As of 16 September 2022[update][54] Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Pos. Nation Player
1 GK Bulgaria BUL Plamen Andreev (vice-captain)
2 DF France FRA Jeremy Petris
4 MF Curaçao CUW Nathan Holder
5 DF Netherlands NED Kellian van der Kaap
6 DF Brazil BRA Wenderson Tsunami
7 MF Bulgaria BUL Georgi Milanov
8 MF Bulgaria BUL Andrian Kraev
10 MF Bulgaria BUL Ivelin Popov
12 MF Nigeria NGA Shehu Abdullahi
13 GK Bulgaria BUL Nikolay Mihaylov (captain)
14 MF Bulgaria BUL Iliyan Stefanov
17 FW Brazil BRA Welton Felipe
No. Pos. Nation Player
18 FW Brazil BRA Ronaldo
19 FW Morocco MAR Bilal Bari
21 DF Croatia CRO Ante Blažević
22 DF Bulgaria BUL Patrick-Gabriel Galchev
23 DF The Gambia GAM Noah Sonko Sundberg
27 MF Bulgaria BUL Asen Mitkov
30 MF Bulgaria BUL Filip Krastev (on loan from Lommel)
33 DF Panama PAN José Córdoba
71 MF Bulgaria BUL Antoan Stoyanov
88 FW Bulgaria BUL Marin Petkov
99 GK Bulgaria BUL Yoan Zagorov

For recent transfers, see Transfers summer 2022.

Out on loan

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Pos. Nation Player
MF Bulgaria BUL Zdravko Dimitrov (to Spartak Varna until June 2023)

Reserve team

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Pos. Nation Player
16 FW Bulgaria BUL Preslav Bachev
24 FW Bulgaria BUL Borislav Rupanov
32 DF Bulgaria BUL Atanas Kilov
34 DF Bulgaria BUL Aleksandar Bozhilov
No. Pos. Nation Player
35 DF Bulgaria BUL Deyvid Mihalev
37 FW Bulgaria BUL Kaloyan Strinski
41 DF Bulgaria BUL Dimitar Andonov
42 DF Bulgaria BUL Denis Dinev

Foreign players

Up to five non-EU/EEA nationals can be registered and given a squad number for the first team in the Bulgarian First League; however, only three can be used during a match day. Those non-EU/EEA nationals with European ancestry can claim citizenship from the nation their ancestors came from. If a player does not have European ancestry he can claim Bulgarian citizenship after playing in Bulgaria for five years.

EU/EEA Nationals

EU/EEA Nationals (Dual citizenship)

Non-EU/EEA Nationals

Note: For a complete list of Levski Sofia players, see Category:PFC Levski Sofia players.

Club officials

Board of Directors

Position Staff
Majority Owner Bulgaria Nasko Sirakov
Executive Director Bulgaria Ivaylo Ivkov
Financial Director Bulgaria Konstantin Bazhdekov
Marketing Director Bulgaria Radoslav Razpopov
Management board Bulgaria Daniel Borimirov
Management board Bulgaria Lachezar Petrov
Management board Bulgaria Petar Ganev

Last updated: October 2021
Source:[citation needed]

First Team

Technical staff
Head Coach Bulgaria Stanimir Stoilov
Assistant Coach Bulgaria Tsanko Tsvetanov
Assistant Coach Bulgaria Dimitar Telkiyski
Assistant Coach Bulgaria Todor Simov
Goalkeeper Coach Bulgaria Georgi Stoyanov
Fitness and Conditioning North Macedonia Mihailo Shejkeroski
Club Doctor Belarus Andrey Perekhod

Last updated: January 2022
Source: [55]

Youth Academy

Technical staff
Under-19 Coach Bulgaria Elin Topuzakov
Under-17 Coach Bulgaria Viktor Dimitrov
Under-16 Coach Bulgaria Ahmed Hikmet
Under-15 Coach Bulgaria Stoyan Dimov
Under-14 Coach Bulgaria Milen Gadzhev
Under-13 Coach Bulgaria Ilian Ivanov

Last updated: January 2022
Source: [56]

Youth academy

Levski's youth academy has developed some of the most successful Bulgarian footballers. Notable academy graduates are Georgi Asparuhov, Nasko Sirakov, Bozhidar Iskrenov, Bozhin Laskov, Georgi Sokolov, Asen Peshev, Borislav Mihaylov, Emil Spasov, Nikolay Iliev, Hristo Yovov, Dimitar Ivankov and many others. At the 1994 FIFA World Cup in which Bulgaria reached the semi-finals, the Bulgarian squad included four players which came through Levski's youth system, making it the most represented club in the Bulgarian squad. In 2020, Levski was included in the CIES Football Observatory annual rankings, which ranks the clubs that trained the most players active in 31 top divisions of UEFA member associations. In these countries there were 33 footballers from Levski's youth academy, and Levski was ranked 35th in Europe.[57]

Stadium

Gerena

Initially, the club did not possess a field of its own and training was held on an empty space called The Hillock (Могилката/Mogilkata), where the National Palace of Culture was built later. In 1924, the Sofia Municipality provided the club with the rights to an empty field on what were then the outskirts of the city, and a decade later the stadium named Levski Field was finally completed. It provided for 10,000 spectators and was regarded as the finest sport facility in the city.

In 1949, the stadium was nationalized and later the Vasil Levski National Stadium was built on the site. The team played in various locations (including the nearby Yunak Stadium) before moving to the "Dinamo" ground, which was located at the site of the modern Spartak swimming complex. In 1961 after districting the team moved to "Suhata Reka" neighborhood. There a new stadium was completed in 1963, renamed in 1990 in honour of Levski's most beloved former player Georgi Asparuhov.

In 1999, the stadium emerged from serious reconstruction for 29,000 spectators. The field measures 105 x 68 metres. However, the team plays most of its important games versus foreign teams on the national stadium "Vasil Levski". On one occasion the former club president Todor Batkov had demanded that Levski should receive "Rakovski" stadium on loan. The demand was on grounds that the first club stadium was nationalized and Levski had never been repaid.

In October 2012, it was announced that Levski is rebuilding its stadium. The first phase of the planned reconstruction was to be completed in 2014, on the centennial of the club's foundation. As of 2013, the capacity was reduced to 19,000 due to the undergoing reconstruction of the main stand. On 5 July 2013, the first step was made in the construction of the main stand, which has a capacity of 6000 spectators and meets all the requirements of UEFA for the convenience of fans. Contractor of the "blue" building is the leading Bulgarian company in the construction of road infrastructure and other important rehabilitation projects, “Avtomagistrali – Tcherno more” AD. The stadium's main stand was officially opened on 23 April 2016 at a special ceremony. Since 2019, the Museum of Glory of Levski Sofia is also located at the stadium.[58]

Supporters

Sector B in 2006

Historically, Levski Sofia fans gathered in the south stand of the stadium. This tradition is believed to have its roots in the Sofia Derby when Levski fans met before the games at the area close to the south end of the Vasil Levski National Stadium. Due to the orientation of the stadium and the naming conventions of stands at most Bulgarian stadiums, Sector B became synonymous with Levski fans. More recently the fans in Sector B are seen as part of the ultras movement popular in the Balkans. Today Sector B initiates most of the songs, choreography and pyrotechnic displays at Levski games. Levski supporters are organized by fanclubs, most notably the National Supporters Club which helps and coordinates fans from all around Bulgaria and supports the organization of events. There are also notable groups from Sofia (Sofia-West, South Division, Blue Junta, HD Boys, LSL and more) and other cities across Bulgaria and globally (such as Ultra Varna, Blue Huns Pernik, OCB Veliko Tarnovo, Torcida Kyustendil, Ultras Vidin, Iron Pazardzhik, Youth Brigade 034 Pazardzik, Blue Boys Blagoevgrad, Blue Lads Sliven, Vandals Pleven, Levski Club Dobrich, Ultras Radomir, Ultras Burgas, Levski 1914 Karlovo, Yambol Boys, Levski UK, Levski Chicago and more). Ultras Levski have a long-standing friendship with Lazio fans.[59][60] According to a study performed for UEFA, Levski is the most popular Bulgarian club and share the sixth position in Europe with Juventus, by percentage of support in its own country (31%).[61]

UEFA & IFFHS rankings

Club coefficients

This is the current 2021–22 UEFA coefficient:[62]

Rank Team Coefficient
290 San Marino La Fiorita 4.000
291 Albania Skënderbeu 4.000
292 Bulgaria Arda Kardzhali 3.900
293 Bulgaria Slavia Sofia 3.900
294 Bulgaria Levski Sofia 3.900
295 Bulgaria Botev Plovdiv 3.900
296 Bulgaria Dunav Ruse 3.900
297 Moldova Milsami Orhei 3.750
298 Northern Ireland Coleraine 3.750
  • Full list

Club world ranking

These are the IFFHS club's points as of 22 January 2019:[63]

Rank Team Points
340 Zambia Green Eagles 68,5
341 Brazil Ceará 68,0
341 Colombia Envigado 68,0
341 Argentina Newell's Old Boys 68,0
341 Bulgaria Levski Sofia 68,0
341 Poland Jagiellonia Białystok 68,0
341 Republic of Ireland Cork City 68,0
341 Venezuela Zamora F.C. 68,0
348 Ecuador Aucas 67,5
  • Full list

Shirt sponsors and manufacturers

[64][65]

Period Kit manufacturer Shirt sponsor
1976–1991 Adidas None
1991–1992 Diadora Pepsi
1992–1994 Adidas Balkanbank
1994–1996 Balkanbank / Bulstrad
1996–1998 VIS-2
1998–1999 None
1999–2000 Reusch Mtel
2000–2005 Diadora
2005–2010 Uhlsport
2010–2012 Nike
2012–2014 Puma VTB Capital[66] / Mtel
2014–2015 Joma Lev Ins[67] / Mtel
2015–2018 Vivacom[68] / Strabag[69] / efbet[70]
2018–2019 Nike
2019–2020 7777.bg[71]
2020–2022 Joma Strabag[72] / PalmsBet[73]
2022– PalmsBet

Club records

As of 2022

3 for win: 79[83]1994–95
2 for win: 501969–70, 1971–72

Player records

As of 18 July 2022.[87]

Most appearances

No. Name Career Appearances
1 Bulgaria Stefan Aladzhov 1967–1981 469
2 Bulgaria Emil Spasov 1974–1990 429
3 Bulgaria Pavel Panov 1969–1981 382
4 Bulgaria Kiril Ivkov 1967–1978 374
5 Bulgaria Elin Topuzakov 1996–2008
2009–2010
347
6 Bulgaria Hristo Iliev 1954–1968 330
Bulgaria Aleksandar Kostov 1956–1971
8 Bulgaria Dimitar Telkiyski 1999–2008
2009–2010
313
9 Bulgaria Plamen Nikolov 1977–1992 310
10 Bulgaria Hristo Yovov 1995–1997
2004–2007
2009–2013
306

Most goals scored

No. Name Career Goals Appearances Goals per game
1 Bulgaria Nasko Sirakov 1981–1994 209 264 0.79
2 Bulgaria Pavel Panov 1969–1981 177 382 0.46
3 Bulgaria Georgi Asparuhov 1959–1971 153 239 0.64
4 Bulgaria Georgi Ivanov 1997–2009 135 238 0.57
5 Bulgaria Hristo Iliev 1954–1959
1961–1968
132 330 0.4
6 Bulgaria Emil Spasov 1974–1985
1987–1988
1989–1990
114 429 0.27
7 Bulgaria Mihail Valchev 1990–1995 109 177 0.62
8 Bulgaria Dimitar Yordanov 1981–1987 100 201 0.5
9 Bulgaria Hristo Yovov 1995–1997
2004–2007
2009–2013
87 306 0.28
10 Bulgaria Asen Peshev 1924–1937 86 99 0.87
Bulgaria Daniel Borimirov 1990–1995
2004–2008
297 0.29

Managerial history and notable players

Managers

Notable Bulgarian players

Players with at least one appearance for the Bulgarian national team.

Notable foreign players

Foreign players with at least 30 games for the club or that were internationally capped. Players who were internationally capped for their country are listed in bold.

Bulgarian Footballer of the Year

Kiril Ivkov, the 1968 Summer Olympics football tournament finalist

A Group top goalscorers

Nasko Sirakov, Levski's all-time top goalscorer

See also

References

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  84. ^ 3 goals were counted in a walkover win.
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External links

Official websites

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Lists
Awards
  • Footballers' Footballer of the Year