Bulgaria has a strong and historic connection with sports. There is strong evidence suggesting that even during the Middle Ages, some form of sporting contests were held in the region.
In present times, the country has a sport-oriented atmosphere, with the youth taking part in many sports. Bulgaria is home to strong and competent athletes, wrestlers, and horse riders who have brought fame and honour to their homeland. With the advent of modern sports in the country, we see many sports forms becoming popular in the country.
Here is a brief account of the five most popular sports in Bulgaria.
Football In Bulgaria
Like most countries, football takes precedence over any other sport in Bulgaria as a spectator and a participatory sport. The locals closely follow their national league and other European leagues. The national league is called Bulgarian First League or the First Professional Football League. The two top football clubs in Bulgaria are CSKA Sofia and Levski Sofia, the first team to participate in the UEFA Champions League in 2006.
The national team has not been able to qualify for any major tournament since the UEFA Euro 2004. The team’s biggest achievement was when it finished in fourth place at the FIFA World Cup in 1994. It currently ranks 72 in the FIFA rankings.
Some top Bulgarian players play in major European clubs, including Dimitar Berbatov, who played for Manchester United and FC Fulham during his career. Other popular Bulgarian football players include Georgi Asparuhov, and Hristo Stoichkov, who was awarded the title of Football player No.1 of the 20th century for Bulgaria.
Wrestling In Bulgaria
The next most popular sport on our list is wrestling. The sport’s popularity is derived from the locals’ love for fighting sports, including amateur boxing, karate, martial arts, etc. Weight lifting also happens to be quite popular as, since historic times, display of strength has been a popular activity.
Bulgarians are very fond of Sumo wrestling, which is quite popular around the country. After Japan, Bulgaria probably has the best team in the world, which has won several European championships.
Some of the best athletes in Bulgaria are wrestlers, and the country has won around 69 medals in the Olympics in the sport.
Since the sport is so popular in the country, there are plenty of clubs, and one can easily avail opportunities to learn and participate in training for wrestling.
Volleyball In Bulgaria
Another sport which is quite popular in Bulgaria is volleyball. Bulgaria has one of the strongest volleyball teams in Europe. There was a time when the men’s team ranked 4th globally. Currently, it is at number 23, according to the FIVB ranking.
The team was a regular in the top 10 teams in the early 2000s and late 1900s. It secured a prominent position at the World Cup in 2007, the Olympics in 1980, the FIVB Volleyball Championship in 1970, and the European Championship in 1951.
Track & Field In Bulgaria
Despite its small size, Bulgaria has garnered attention for its performance at athletic events. Bulgaria’s Stefka Kostadinova holds the record for lady’s high jumps (209 centimetres), while Yordanka Donkova holds the record for the 100-metre hurdle at 12.29 seconds.
The two athletes made these records in the 1980s. Yordanka’s record remained unbeaten till 2016 when Kendra Harrison from the US did the 100-metre hurdle at 12.20 seconds. Stefka Kostadinova made her record in 1987, which is unbeaten to date. Another Bulgarian female athlete who has been making rounds recently is Ivet Lalova-Collio, the 13th fastest woman in the history of 100 metres.
Gymnastics In Bulgaria
Lastly, we have gymnastics. Bulgarians excel at rhythmic gymnastics and sports gymnastics both. Rhythmic or art gymnastics is among the most popular activities among young women and girls in Bulgaria. The sport’s history dates back more than 50 years, and based on their ample experience in the field, Bulgarians have made a name for themselves in the world.
The golden girls from Bulgaria have made their country proud on several occasions and won hundreds of medals. Most prominent of these gymnasts are Maria Petrova and Maria Gigova, both of whom hold a record of three world titles.
Sports Gymnastics is the first Olympic sport in Bulgaria. The first time a Bulgarian gymnast participated in the Olympics was in 1896. The most popular Bulgarian gymnasts from the 1900s are Velik Kapsazov, who was the first to win an Olympic medal, securing third place, and Stoyan Delchev, the first champion gymnast in the Olympics. He won a gold medal on the rings and a bronze medal for the overall competition. In recent years, the most prominent gymnast is Jordan Jovchev.