Trifon Ivanov is certainly along with Hristo Stoitchkov and Emil Kostadinov the symbol of this highly talented generation of football players, who transformed the Bulgarian national team into one of the most feared teams around the world. At the 1994 World Cup he was certainly one of the main characters of the Bulgarian miracle, which saw Bulgaria browse through the competition on to the semifinals after having secured their qualification by a last-minute goal against France in 1993.
With his grim, determined look, his savage-looking bears, his great defensive skills and his recurring offensive actions the now 33 years old Trifon Ivanov has already become a cult figure of international football. Worshipped by his fans, a nightmare for every coach, his appearances are always a balancing act between genius and lunacy. His gestures and facial expressions during a game are often worthy of the stage.
Trifon Ivanov is more than just an exceptional player, he knows that people want to be entertained and that football is also a great show. And his entertaining skills are outstanding: letпїЅs just mention his debut with Rapid Wien, where we could see him smoke a Davidoff only minutes before kick-off, his numerous hoaxes or his inimitable Viennese dialect.
Trifon Ivanov was born on July 27th 1965 in Lipnitza, a small village near Veliko Tarnovo. He was formed at Etar Tarnovo, where he played together with Krassimir Balakov. Before becoming an outstanding defensive player Trifon played as a striker, which explains that he sometimes forgets about his defensive duties to help his team in the attack. He made his debut with Etar Tarnovo at the age of 18 and joined the famous Bulgarian club CSKA Sofia in 1989 where he made his first appearance on the international scene together with Hristo Stoitchkov. Like Stoichkov, Ivanov left Bulgaria to play in the Spanish Primera Division, where he played for Real Betis Sevilla.There he has to come over ups and downs , apart from the teams lack of success, he's often criticized for his indiscipline and is transferred to the Swiss club Xamax Neuchatel in 1993.
In the summer of 1994 Trifon Ivanov accomplishes together with his teammates from the Bulgarian national team what certainly was a miracle nobody could expect. At its fifth appearance in a World Cup, having never won a game in their previous showings, Bulgaria reaches the semi-finals, sending home title-holders Germany in a memorable quarter-final game. Trifon Ivanov played a big part in this success and struck the eyes of more than one football fan around the globe.
His second season at Xamax is marked by his confrontation with Xamax-coach Gilbert Gress. Ivanov is known for his straightness and after a match he shouts at Gress in front of the whole team "You don't know anything about football!". In the middle of the season he returns to CSKA Sofia for a few months and is transferred to the Austrian top-team Rapid Wien for 800.000 $. There he has his best moments, in his first season he wins the championship with Rapid and reaches the European Cup Winners' Cup final. He is voted player of the year by the fans of Rapid and in Bulgaria.
Unfortunately, just like in Neuchatel his indiscipline earned him some problems with Coach Ernst Dokupil. After some good performances in the Champions League, he plays some bad matches and appears to be in a bad form. The decisive game for the championship against Salzburg should be his last for Rapid. Rapid lost the game and Ivanov was sent off in the last minutes of the game. Dokupil swears that he will never play for Rapid again, despite a contract until 1998.
The situation gets grotesque when it seems that Ivanov who doesn't find a new club should play for Rapid's amateur team in the 4th division! Finally, Ivanov joins city rivals Austria Wien. But he can do nothing to improve the teamпїЅs poor performances and prefers to return to CSKA Sofia in spring 1998 to prepare himself for the World Cup in France. For the last time, the old veterans Stoitchkov, Ivanov, Kostadinov and co. want to honor the colors of Bulgaria at a big competition. Their poor showing marks the end of an era but they will always be remembered as the greatest and most talented generation of Bulgarian football players.