SOFIA, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Police have arrested a former Bulgarian first division player for attempts to manipulate international Under-19 matches at last month’s European Championship, the domestic football union (BFU) said on Friday.
“Joint operational work of the interior ministry and the Bulgarian Football Union has led to an arrest for attempted manipulation of the national Under-19 team matches,” the BFU said in a statement.
The BFU said the moves were made by a 20-year-old former footballer, who played for more than one club in the domestic top flight.
“His aim was to manipulate Bulgaria matches at the European championship,” BFU spokesman Pavel Kolev said. “I can’t reveal his identity.”
Bulgaria lost their three matches at Euro 2014 in Hungary and finished bottom of Group B without scoring a goal.
“I see such a defeat for the first time,” Bulgaria coach Alexander Dimitrov said after his team’s 1-0 loss to Ukraine. “One day, I might tell the reasons....”
During the investigation, police questioned many individuals, including players from Bulgaria’s U-19 team at the tournament.
Reports of match-fixing and corruption have been rife in the Balkan country for years.
Bulgaria passed amendments to its penal code in 2011 that make match-fixing and illegal sports betting a crime. Anyone convicted of attempting to fix matches faces up to six years in jail.
The first documented manipulated game in Bulgaria took place in 1949 when Levski and city neighbours Akademik drew 1-1 to “help” bitter rivals CSKA be relegated to the second division.
Reporting by Angel Krasimirov, editing by Ed Osmond