SOFIA, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Police have arrested a former Bulgarian top-flight goalkeeper for attempting to manipulate matches at last month’s Under-19 European Championship, a government official said on Friday.
“Daniel Gyaurov has been arrested after a joint operation involving the interior ministry and the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU),” a ministry spokeswoman told Reuters before adding the investigation was ongoing.
Gyaurov, 20, a former Bulgaria youth, Lokomotiv Sofia and Vidima-Rakovski keeper who retired from soccer earlier this year, met some of his old team mates and tried to convince them to throw games at the tournament in Hungary.
“His aim was to manipulate Bulgaria matches at the European Championship,” said BFU spokesman Pavel Kolev.
Bulgaria lost their three games and finished bottom of Group B without scoring a goal.
A member of the Under-19 squad told Reuters on condition of anonymity that coach Alexander Dimitrov decided to drop one unnamed player after receiving information on “some controversial contacts”.
“Some of the lads came to me on the evening of July 16, only a few hours before the departure of the team for Hungary,” coach Alexander Dimitrov told local media.
”They were very worried. They told me one of their team mates had contacted some of the players and asked them to throw games.
“I talked to him and he confessed everything. He seemed very worried, I think he may have been threatened but it’s something the investigation should reveal,” added Dimitrov.
”I released him of course, there’s no way he could be in my squad ... there are other people involved too but I can’t reveal names.
“I immediately called (BFU president) Mr (Borislav) Mihaylov and I told him everything,” said Dimitrov. “All this affected our play, we’re talking about 19-year-old boys ... there’s enormous pressure, it was terrible.”
Police have already questioned several individuals including players from the Under-19 squad.
Reports of match-fixing and corruption have been rife in the Balkan country for many years.
“If a player or players are found guilty they should be banned for life,” said Plamen Mihov, head of the BFU’s junior football department.
In Bulgaria, match-fixing and illegal sports betting are criminal offences. Anyone convicted of attempting to manipulate games faces up to six years in jail.
The first documented manipulated game in the country took place in 1949 when Levski and city neighbours Akademik drew 1-1 to ‘help’ bitter rivals CSKA to go down to the second division. (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov, editing by Ed Osmond and Tony Jimenez)