Bulgarian Football Legend Stoichkov Probed for Battery in US
Police in the US city of Chicago is investigating Bulgarian football legend Hristo Stoichkov on allegations he thrashed a Bulgarian journalist.
The news was reported Wednesday by a number of Bulgarian media, including Trud (Labor) daily, citing a Chicago police officer on duty, who says the case is being probed. The police record describes the attack as Stoichkov hitting the victim with a fist and lists the charge as battery.
Since this is not a serious crime, it is expected that the football star will be allowed to leave the US.
The incident happened Monday evening, during a gala for the 15th anniversary of the football club Chicago Fire, held at the city's History Museum.
The alleged victim of the attack, Svetlozar Momchilov, editor-in-chief and publisher of the Chicago-based "Bulgaria Today," claims he had been attacked while trying to score an interview with the former football player with the latter hitting him on the jaw and threatening him with "cutting his head off."
The journalist, in a state of shock, according to his own account, drove home in the suburbs of Chicago, but after calming down decided to file a complaint with the police.
Stoichkov denies the incident ever took place.
"You are probably talking about an individual who arrived, without being invited, at the magnificent ceremony the football club had organized. It was fantastic, one of the top events I ever attended. People in the US want to advance soccer; soccer fields are filling up. We were some of the pioneers and were proud to be honored in such way. And amidst all this glamor and smiles, someone popped-out barging for an interview. I told him rules exist all over the world and must be obeyed. Belligerent people can be expected anywhere, but he still did not manage to spoil the spectacle staged by the bosses of Chicago Fire. He is dreaming that I hit him. Some people are so pathetic; they want to use my name to rise to fame. But I will survive it yet one more time. I don't need any glory; I have plenty. And I earned it with such hard work, sweat, and pain that very few can even imagine," Stoichkov is quoted saying.
Meanwhile the correspondent in the US of the largest private TV channel bTV reported that he saw the whole thing. He blamed the journalist for the incident, saying his colleague overstepped the boundaries of acceptable behavior by insisting aggressively on the interview. The correspondent further informs Stoichkov never hit Momchilov, but rather took him by the lapel and pulled him away from the table.
Stoichkov, a former Barcelona striker, nicknamed The Dagger over his fiery temperament, has worked all over the world, including the US – for Chicago Fire and DC United.
He was involved in a fight during the final of the 1985 Bulgarian Cup, which resulted in an original lifelong ban, reduced later to a one year suspension. In his first season with Barcelona, Stoichkov was suspended for two months for stomping on a referee's foot.
In 2006, he was sued by a former American University college student in Washington DC, whose leg he broke in a violent tackle during a match against DC United in 2003.
He kept his bad temper as a coach as well, prompting a couple of proven players to quit due to personal differences while Stiliyan Petrov, the captain of the team, announced he would not play for Bulgaria as long as Stoichkov was manager - a fall-out they later settled.
In 2008, Stoichkov attacked and hit a Bulgarian photo reporter in Barcelona. Photographer Lubomir Asenov, who was in Spain for a Formula 1 race, saw Stoichkov in a restaurant and took a photo of him. The later reportedly ran out after him; hit him in the face, knocking him on the ground. Stoichkov's assault was allegedly accompanied with many curse words and with threats, some of which were directed at Asenov's pregnant wife. Barcelona police confirmed at the time there was an incident involving Stoichkov, but did not provide more details. The football legend later apologized to the reporter, explaining the attack with the fact the victim did not ask for permission to take a photograph and with an attempt to protect his own family.
Just very recently, after being questioned by the Main Unit for Combatting Organized Crime, GDBOP, he blasted at journalists for tarnishing his international image by linking his name with match-fixing and black lotto, even though the information about the interrogation was reported by the Interior Ministry.
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