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The Bulgarian footballers association celebrated the 15th edition of its Children and Football programme with an award ceremony that was attended by football legend Hristo Stoichkov among others and some of the country’s current crop of star players.

 

Since 1998, the Association of Bulgarian Footballers (ABF) organises the Children and Football programme.

 

The goal of this national project is to get children to play football and to prevent them taking the wrong turn in life. Says Mila Hristova, ABF spokeswoman: ‘Children at an age from 10 to 14 are building their character, but are also very susceptible to other people’s influences.  Our aim is to attract them to playing football in order to protect them from turning to drugs, smoking or alcohol. Football requires a high level of physical activity and the emotions of the game make football very interesting for children. It is easy to attract the children to go to the stadium, however it is more difficult to let them stay there and make the football game their hobby, or even a profession’.

 

The Children and Football programme consists of 25 regional tournaments across the country. ‘For many of the 10,000 children it is the first time they participate in a football event’, says Hristova.

 

‘We believe that there are three factors which help children to be captivated by football.

  1. The football outfit
  2. A good pitch and technical facilities
  3. An example to follow'.

 

Therefore all participants receive their own football outfit, which they can keep after the event. They play in official stadiums used by professional clubs and the tournaments are attended by (former) Bulgarian football stars, among others Hristo Stoichkov, Dimitar Berbatov, Stiliyan Petrov, Martin Petrov, Emil Kostadinov, Borislav Mihaylov and Luboslav Penev.

 

There are many positive effects, Hristova explains: ‘The program is significant for the physical development of children. Many of the children who participated in our tournaments are currently training regularly in football schools. Some are playing in the Bulgarian professional leagues or abroad. And some of them are members of our national team, like Nikolay Mihaylov and Todor Nedelev’.

 

Recently, the ABF organised the award ceremony of this year’s tournament. Hristo Stoichkov, together with Levski players Stanislav Angelov and Vladimir Gadjev and CSKA players Todor Yanchev, Valentin Iliev and Emil Gargorov, handed out trophies to the young talents.

 

Former Barcelona and CSKA great Stoichkov said: ‘First I want to congratulate all the participants. Second, I want to thank the Association of Bulgarian Footballers for keeping alive this initiative for more than 15 years. I have been delighted to participate in this ceremony because I will always remember where I came from and what I have been through. Regardless of where I am, I won't stop supporting ABF.’

 

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