Only Izzo and Trifon are starters in the generational team
Who is he?
Hristo Bonev-Zuma is one of the great legends of Bulgarian football. Bonev is second in goals in the history of the national team with 48 goals. A three-time winner of the award Footballer #1 of Bulgaria in 1969, 1972 and 1973, Bonev also holds the records for the most games played and the most goals for “Lokomotiv” (Plovdiv). As a selector, he qualified the national team for the World Cup in 1998. Before “Bulgaria Dnes”, Zuma goes back half a century, when Bulgaria achieved some of its most memorable victories.
– Mr. Bonev, 55 years ago, Bulgaria defeated the Netherlands 2:0 in Sofia, then drew 1:1 in Rotterdam and qualified without appeal for the world championship in Mexico in the 70th year. What do you remember from that period?
– From the match in Sofia, I remember the penalty I scored and Gundy’s wonderful goal in the second half. The second match, played in Rotterdam, is much more special. Then I scored a decisive goal for 1:1, with which we qualified for the World Cup in Mexico. It meant everything to us. This national team after the World Cup in England in 66 until the death of Gundy in 71 and after centuries will not be repeated. We were men who really loved football. We gave it our all no matter who we were playing. Even when we didn’t succeed, our desire to play was great. Only some of us lacked the experience of the big international matches. I often go back to the team with which we qualified for Mexico, and I always enjoy it.
– Then what exactly went wrong at the World Cup?
– Many party professors and academics intervened in our preparations, although the selector Stefan Bozhkov did not agree. When we had energy, we led in all three games against Peru, Germany and Morocco. In the second half, we barely walked. The heat had a much greater effect than the altitude, and this was not foreseen by the leaders. Nachko Mihailov warned us about this, since he participated in the Olympics in Mexico in 1968. However, no one allowed Bozhkov to conduct his training as he wanted. It was funny that there was a professor who came with a thin air balloon. We were given masks to breathe it in. Half left the masks on the ears, not the nose and mouth (laughs).
– That is, the power in the country at that time bears the blame for the failure?
– Unfortunately, we were doomed to failure. This national team could have achieved much more. Only Stoichkov and Trifon Ivanov would probably have starting positions in this team from the generations after us. There is no one to play in the place of Gundi, Dinko Dermendzhiev-Chiko, Yakimov, Penev… We had incredible players in all positions.
– Among the most beautiful moments of the world finals remains that fabulous goal by Dinko Dermendzhiev against Peru.
– The goal came after a good combination between me, Zhekov and Dermendzhiev from a direct free kick. Back then, many elite teams tried to score in a similar way. This shows how far Stefan Bozhkov was looking in football at that time. Unfortunately, these people are leaving the world one by one, but forever remain in history and people’s hearts.
– Was the match against West Germany the most difficult, then we lost with 2:5?
– FRG had the best footballers in the world. Looking at names like Beckenbauer, Müller, Zeller, Meyer… they didn’t have a weak player. Regarding the match, I can’t even say that it was very difficult despite the result. We played well in the first half. We didn’t have the energy for the second one and they took advantage. Maybe it would be different if we had more power. Unfortunately, a lot of misunderstandings happened and people who have no idea about football got involved.
– After the World Cup in Mexico, there is a popular article by “Workers’ Case” that criticizes the national team. How did it affect you and the team?
– Then they decided that the big party leaders would fix football. Most of them must not have even physically undressed. It definitely affected the team. Some players were then suspended or gave up football themselves.
– After that comes the qualification for the World Cup ’74 led by coach Hristo Mladenov…
– I had the good fortune to play with three generations of footballers. Starting from before the World Cup in Mexico, to the one in Germany. Then we had European class. Recently, 50 years have passed since the match at the Luge Stadium in Portugal, when we drew 2:2 and qualified for the World Cup in Germany. I was fortunate to benefit from the efforts of all the boys who played for the national team. I scored both goals against the Portuguese. The locals sent me and my colleagues off with the utmost respect and ovation. To achieve this against Eusebio, Torres, Quareshma and company, was unthinkable for the people of Bulgaria.
– Which match with the national team remains deep in your mind?
– The control match against the world champion England at “Wembley” in 1968. Then everywhere it was said that the English would “fill our basket”. However, we finished 1-1 after that fantastic Gundy goal that I will always remember. It’s best when seen up close, not on a black and white screen. This guy did it all on the field and there will never be another like him.