SOFIA, Bulgaria — Borislav Mihaylov, the controversial president of the Bulgarian soccer federation and a former national team goalkeeper, resigned Monday following mass protests against him.
A new president will be elected at a federation congress next year.
Several thousand soccer fans had taken to the streets in recent weeks to demand the resignation of Mihaylov, the goalkeeper on the Bulgaria team that reached the semifinals at the 1994 World Cup.
The fury was fueled by the federation’s decision to play a European Championship qualifying match against Hungary on Oct. 16 in an empty stadium, and longer-term unhappiness with the national team’s decline.
Additional pressure for the resignation came from the country’s prime minister, Nikolay Denkov, who urged in a letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino to take “decisive action” by removing Mihaylov as federation leader and installing an interim management.
The letter, which was published on the government website, cited “long-amassed criticism and dissatisfaction of football clubs” with soccer leadership in the country. It also pointed out that FIFA’s statutes grant it the power to remove member federation leaders “under exceptional circumstances.”
On Monday, Mihaylov rejected all claims about “criticism by the soccer clubs” and snapped at reporters that only reason to quit was “to calm everyone down.” He added that his resignation was not requested by any of the soccer clubs.
Mihaylov did not comment on the investigation that Bulgaria's chief prosecutor launched recently into the country's soccer management, with the focus on the actions of the federation president.
The prosecutor’s probe comes after numerous media reports alleging a range of violations and potential criminal activities, including the misappropriation of public funds and involvement in illicit betting schemes.
Mihaylov was first elected in 2005 to lead the national soccer federation. The men’s national team has slumped under his leadership and has not qualified for a major tournament since Euro 2004.
Mihaylov was out of office for 18 months after he resigned in 2019 under pressure from the government. He left one day after Bulgaria fans made Nazi salutes and targeted England’s Black players with racial abuse during a Euro 2020 qualifying game in Sofia.