Sofia, Bulgaria, June 12, 2018 – Forty-eight years after he was within two points of winning the World Championship title, Dimitar Zlatanov got another chance to hold the coveted trophy in his hands.
Bulgaria’s Best Volleyballer of the 20th century, and the only Bulgarian inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in Holyoke, Zlatanov got to relive some of the emotions of the most glorious, yet most disappointing moment in the history of Bulgarian volleyball, when he was invited to present the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship trophy to the public in Sofia.
Together with Italy, Bulgaria is co-hosting this year’s World Championship in September. The only time the southern European nation has previously played host to the prestigious event was back in 1970. Unbeaten in their first 11 matches of the tournament, Dimitar Zlatanov and his teammates needed to win just one more, the last game of the competition - against East Germany, to triumph with the trophy in front of the home fans in Sofia.
Dimitar Zlatanov (second from the right) with the 1970 Bulgarian national team
On October 2, 1970, in the crucial fifth set the Bulgarians had a comfortable 13-5 lead and looked all set for a historic success. Only two points lay between them and the World Championship trophy, but in a dramatic turn of events, the East Germans mounted a spectacular comeback to win the tie-breaker by 15-13 and snatch the title away from the hands of the home team. If it was any consolation at all, Zlatanov himself was honoured as the Best Spiker of the World Championship.
“I am so glad that in my lifetime I will witness one more World Championship taking place in Bulgaria. It brings back the memories from 48 years ago, when we had a great tournament, but in the end we failed to win the world title. Moments like that, which we lived through on the court, leave a mark for the rest of your life,” Dimitar Zlatanov said.
Ten years after the silver medal from the 1970 World Championship, Dimitar Zlatanov led the Balkan Lions to the other biggest achievement in the history of Bulgarian men’s volleyball, silver at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.
Bulgaria’s capital Sofia will again be a host city for the World Championship in September and is where the national Trophy Tour started. Zlatanov officially presented the coveted prize to the public at Arena Armeec during the Volleyball Nations League weekend, which the magnificent venue hosted from June 1 through 3. After over 20 thousand fans got to see the trophy in Sofia, it will also visit the two other Bulgarian cities which will host the World Championship this year – Varna (June 15 - 17) and Ruse (June 23).
“The opportunity to hold this trophy and present it to the sports community in Bulgaria was a very emotional and happy moment for me. I hope we will experience some great memorable moments as spectators at the World Championship and supporters of the Bulgarian national team. I wish the boys the best of luck in achieving more than our generation ever did!” Zlatanov concluded.