Monday 21 November 2022, 09:00

Hristo Stoichkov: The World Cup Cup is a family party

“After the World Cup, when we went back to Bulgaria, we saw images and footage. It was extraordinary to see a whole country with cars on the streets, people shouting our names, people happy.” We are living in uncertain times filled with conflicts and global crises. The world is divided. The FIFA World Cup, through the power of football will bring people together to cross borders, unite and celebrate together. Football Unites the World will be a global movement to inspire, unite and develop through football. FIFA Legends have shared their stories of how football united their respective countries during uncertain times, and before the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 kicked off, we took Hristo Stoichkov for a walk down memory lane.

Hristo Stoichkov is unquestionably the most successful Bulgarian football player in history, winning a myriad of individual awards, and club titles. His performance at the FIFA World Cup in 1994, where he scored six goals, contributes to this day, to his ‘icon’ status. “The 1994 FIFA World Cup] was our sixth participation and we had never won a game up to that point – it was always draws or defeats. We headed into that [World Cup] with the sole objective of winning one game so that when we woke up the next day, all the front pages [back home] would have Bulgaria’s first win at the World Cup” he recalled. The opening game saw the Bulgarians go down 3-0 to Nigeria, but what happened next, became part of FIFA World Cup folklore. Stoichkov et al went all the way to the semi-finals, after victories against Greece, Argentina, Mexico and Germany.

“Obviously, we were so far away from Bulgaria. We didn't know what had happened during the World Cup, in the streets, in the stadiums, in the houses. “From being a small country with a big heart to enjoying our first victory, the second, third, fourth, it was extraordinary to see a whole country with cars on the streets, people shouting our names, people happy.” 28 years may have passed since USA ’94, but the memories of a special moment in time are just as strong. Stoichkov reflectively concurs with the unique ‘unifying’ impact of the FIFA World Cup. “The World Cup is a family party, a party that FIFA organise, that unites people. No matter where we are from, no matter what colour we are, it’s important to come together, to embrace each other, to come together for peace. That’s the World Cup.”