site.btaUPDATED Gendarmerie Use Water Cannons to Disperse Fans Protesting against Football Union Leadership
Football fans gathered on Thursday around the Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia to protest against the leadership of the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU).
Organized and unorganized supporters of most of the leading football clubs in the country were called to join the protest and most of them agreed - CSKA (Sofia), Levski (Sofia), Botev (Plovdiv), Lokomotiv (Plovdiv), Beroe (Stara Zagora), Slavia (Sofia), Cherno More (Varna), Spartak (Varna), Lokomotiv (Sofia), Minyor (Pernik), among others. The motto of the protest says "18 years is enough! United with demand for resignations! Bobby Mihaylov and the BFU - out, now!". Borislav Mihaylov is the BFU President of 18 years.
A large number of police officers were deployed around the facility. Several streets around the stadium were closed to traffic. Policemen formed a buffer zone where fans were allowed to gather for the protest.
The protest action, which started shortly after 5 pm in the area of the National Stadium "Vasil Levski" in Sofia, involved about three thousand supporters from the capital and the country.
The supporters, who mainly chanted "Resign" and insulting qualifications to the Bulgarian Football Union and to President Borislav Mihaylov, also sang the national anthem and patriotic songs. The ultras also used pyrotechnics and smoke bombs. Among the protesters were former football referees Bogomil Marinov and Lyube Spasov and former Bulgarian national under-15 team selector Kaloyan Georgiev, a BTA reporter saw. A group of Hungarian ultras joined the Levski fans on Gurko Street and Lyuben Karavelov Street.
CSKA supporters, who are the most numerous and gathered on the Eagles' Bridge, pinned a banner with "Resign. 18 years are enough" on one of the pylons, referring to the period of the reign of BFU President Mihaylov. Traffic there was stopped.
The third group of supporters gathered at the intersection of Tsar Osvoboditel and Vasil Levski boulevards at Sofia University, which was also closed to traffic.
The police told BTA that in the first hour the protest passed without incidents, but around 6:30 the ultras, most of them with masks on their faces, started throwing various objects, stones, bombs and incendiary flares at the policemen who were stationed in front of the National Stadium on Gurko Street. The gendarmerie called several times with a megaphone for the fans to calm down, but this did not happen, and the uniformed officers used a water cannon to stop the excesses. A second water cannon was brought in to assist the law enforcement officers and the police used force and dispersed the crowd. Law enforcement officers and fans were injured in the disturbance. There were also arrests. A police vehicle was set on fire and damage was caused to cars parked in the area and to infrastructure.
The demands of the protesters are for the immediate resignation of Borislav Mihaylov and the entire management of the headquarters and scheduling an extraordinary Congress by February 2024 to elect a new leadership.
Some 1,600 police officers from Sofia are tasked with keeping the peace. Law enforcement officers closed the approaches to the stadium in the early afternoon, with motor-vehicle traffic on Evlogi Georgiev Boulevard in the area in front of Vasil Levski Stadium stopped and only public transport buses allowed through.
The Bulgarian national football team is playing a European qualification against Hungary in a closed-door match at Vasil Levski Stadium Thursday evening.