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News 13 May 16

Footballer’s UNESCO Nomination Amuses Bulgarians

UNESCO’s chief Irina Bokova’s plan to nominate the hot-tempered Bulgarian football legend Hristo Stoichkov as a UNESCO Champion for Sport has drawn mixed reactions back home. 

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
Hristo Stoichkov. Photo: Litexfan

Bulgarians reacted with surprise - and in some cases with mockery - to news that the UNESCO’s Bulgarian chief Irina Bokova plans to nominate football legend Hristo Stoichkov as a Goodwill Ambassador in the UNESCO Champion for Sport category.

The plan by Bokova, who is Bulgaria’s candidate for the post of UN Secretary-General, was announced at the annual meeting of the Goodwill Ambassadors of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, in Paris, media reported on Wednesday.

“Stoichkov is definitely national heritage, but far from cultural,” was one popular mocking reaction circulating on social media over the past two days.

The reason for the controversy is that Stoichkov, a former Barcelona player and a winner of the Ballon d’Or in 1994, is notorious for his bad temper on the pitch.

He could often be seen arguing with referees, other footballers and journalists, which might be viewed as contradicting the message of peace, sportsmanship and goodwill that he would have to carry worldwide as a UNESCO champion for sport.

At the end of March, Bulgaria’s top scorer provoked another wave of outrage among some after he published pictures on Twitter of himself posing with dead wild animals he had killed on a safari in Africa.

Bokova is expected to officially announce Stoichkov’s nomination for Champion for Sport next week.

He would then carry the title along with 12 legendary sportspeople, including Michael Schumacher, Pele, the Ukrainian boxers Vitaliy and Vladimir Klitschko, the Belgian tennis player Justine Henin, and others.

This would not be the first time Bulgaria’s retired striker has got involved with a UN cause. In 2009, he was an anti-hunger ambassador for the UN’s World Food Program.

Regardless of his on-pitch temper, Stoichkov is one of the most beloved football idols not only in Bulgaria, but also in Barcelona, where he was among the best strikers in the 1990s.

He was a member of the legendary Bulgarian national team that played finished fourth in the 1999 World Cup and won the World Cup Golden Shoe with six goals back then.

Stoichkov turned 50 in 2016 and will celebrate with a football show at the Bulgarian national football stadium in Sofia on May 20.

The friendly match will bring Bulgarian top footballers together with world legends such as Diego Maradona, Romario, Roberto Badjo, Davor Suker, Zvonimir Boban and others.

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