Bulgarian Football Association president Borislav Mihailov was in Zurich on Monday to discuss the state of the Bulgarian game and its future with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. Goalkeeper and captain during Bulgaria's epic run to the 1994 FIFA World Cup™ semi-finals, Mihailov spoke afterwards with FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: Mr. Mihailov, what do you hope to gain from your trip to Zurich?
Borislav Mihailov: I came here to see President Blatter. There are a few issues in Bulgarian football that I would like to resolve. FA elections are due to be held in October 2009 and I'd like to bring them forward to the start of the year. We've experienced some problems with corruption and illegal betting and I want to deal with these matters to clean up Bulgarian football.
Bulgaria qualified for the last four at the 1994 FIFA World Cup USA but since then they have failed to reach the same heights. How do you explain that?
Our football is not doing too badly at the moment. Our Under-19 team qualified for the UEFA European Championship (in 2007/08) and that hadn't happened for a very long time. The senior team is ranked 15th by FIFA and that's rather satisfying. But we're always a little bit behind, and finishing as the best third-placed team in a qualifying group does us no good at all.
What does the current side lack that your generation possessed in 1994?
It's impossible for me to compare the 1994 generation to the current one. They are two different eras, but I can say what Bulgarian football lacks right now. It's a good thing that our youngsters get to move abroad; that allows them to mature earlier. Inversely, however, our clubs lack the means and infrastructure to be competitive in Europe. Training is not carried out perfectly and only four or five clubs are managing to stay afloat. As a result, the clubs buy youngsters from abroad who are less talented but less expensive, and that denies our own youngsters the chance to play in their home country.
Do you find being one of the heroes of 1994 useful in your role as FA president?
At the FA, we've also got Iordan Letchkov, Ilian Kiriakov and Emil Kostadinov - all of them players at USA '94. It's a good thing because we're a 'Football' Association, as opposed to some other sport (laughs). Seriously, though, there are also people at the FA who were not players and that's good for balance.
Dimitar Berbatov is currently shining on the pitch. How much of an asset is it to have a star like that?
Berbatov has already pretty much reached the same level of popularity as Hristo Stoichkov, in Bulgaria and abroad. He's an excellent motor for football in our country. He lifts us higher but, above all else, he's a fantastic example for the people of Bulgaria.
What is your main objective?
Every association needs a national training centre. I'm on the verge of completing this project with help from FIFA and UEFA. All we're lacking now is the land. That's my main objective.