Levski Sofia v Slavia Sofia

Chants, cries and everything Ultra in the Bulgarian First Division



The noise echoed through the streets as the fans made their way to the stadium.

Levski came into this Sofian derby in fine form, and this was felt in the buoyant mood among the families and ultras gathering by the nearby park and bars.

Boom! One of many explosions from fireworks as we took our seats, just as the rival Slavia fans arrived.

Boos rang out as they unveiled their banner, and in retaliation, the Levski fans started waving their flags.

But then ‘Freed From Desire’ rang out. Altered for Levski. The players had arrived.

The team of the people have not brought the league title back to eastern Sofia since 2009, and this season will be no different as they occupy fourth place.

However, the manner in which they played the first half suggested Levski should fix this title absence in the next season or two.

They bolted out of the gate at the sound of the whistle, Levski made their intent known to close the gap to second.

Only for a smart tip over the bar from the Slavia keeper would the Blues have taken the lead from a well-worked set piece.

The pressure was relentless from Levski. Despite the odd half-chance on the counterattack, Slavia offered nothing.

As the game edged closer to the interval, both sides looked to have settled for a draw.

But in that moment, the home fans once again showed their appreciation with the eruption of “LEVSKI! SOFIA!”

And then, “GOAL!”

The stadium erupted as Ricardinho ran away in celebration. The Brazilian showed his quality as he dropped off the centre backs into space, collecting the ball in the half space before turning and releasing a venous strike that gave the Slavia keeper no chance as it became 1-0.

Levski Sofia fans
Levski Sofia fans

The Blue Avalanche’s pressure did not relent, as they weren’t done this half. Levski thought they had been awarded a penalty a minute before the interval.

However, the worst acronym in the world of football ruled that Levski were offside in the buildup – VAR.

It felt like Slavia had a mountain to climb in the second half, as they offered nothing in the opening 45 minutes against the Blue Avalanche.

The mood at the break was optimistic amongst the crowd, as people joked and laughed with the club reminiscing as footage showed the glory days on the giant screen.

The cliché game of two halves is often used too sparingly, but there was no other way to describe this game.

Slavia came out with a different mindset. Tired of sitting back and soaking up pressure, they took the game to the hosts, unaware of the barrage of pressure about to be thrown at them.

The loyal Levski fans fell silent as their team struggled to get out of their own half for the opening 10 minutes of the second period.

But as the ball flashed across their goal for the second time in this timespan, they did the only thing they could; they doubled down on their chanting.

Unfortunately, this had no effect, and Slavia continued their onslaught as Levski attempted to hold out for the win to keep them in the conversation for Europa Conference League qualification.

Slavia had the ball in the net courtesy of Martin Sorakov on the stroke of the hour, but knowing he was already offside before applying the finish, the striker ran back to his defensive position before the referee confirmed the decision, keeping the score at 1-0 to Levski. They were living on the edge.

Once again, the Levski ultras sweat as the ball was cleared off the goal line in the 76th minute of the game.

Despite Nikolay Kostov making all his available changes, this seemed to do nothing, and the Slavia domination continued right up to the end of the 90 minutes.

A final chance fell to centre back Viktor Genev in the dying stages of normal time, five yards out, but he will not want to relieve this moment as the ball was skied over the bar in front of an empty goal.

A monumental moment, but it all but confirmed this was not to be Slavia’s night.

The Slavia players could sense it, the Levski players could sense it, and the Blues ultras could sense it.

And as the Levski fans belted out their chants in additional time their side started to show some quality in the opposition half.

A euphoric noise erupted around the home section of the stadium as, with the last kick of the game, Marin Petkov secured all three points. A thunderous strike past the Slavia keeper doubled the lead, making it 2-0.

As the home fans left the stadium with a spring in their step for the start of the Easter weekend, you could almost forgive them for forgetting how poor their side were in the second half. But they got the three points; why would they care?

Chants rang through the streets of Sofia for those in support of the team of the people.



Images: Brendan McGilligan

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