SOFIA (Reuters) - Former hard-man defender Trifon Ivanov, who was instrumental in helping Bulgaria reach the 1994 World Cup semi-finals, died on Saturday at the age of 50 after suffering a heart attack.
The Bulgarian Football Union announced the death of Ivanov who was a fearsome sight during his playing career with long hair, a wild beard and a cold, sinister stare.
The centre back was considered one of the Black Sea state’s greatest players. He wore the captain’s armband in the same national team that featured the likes of Hristo Stoichkov, Emil Kostadinov and Luboslav Penev.
Ivanov won three domestic league titles, the Bulgarian Cup and the Super Cup with CSKA Sofia between 1989-92.
He also enjoyed a successful spell at Rapid Vienna, landing the Austrian title, the domestic cup and the 1996 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Ivanov collected 76 international caps, scoring six goals including a stunning header that gave Bulgaria a 1-0 victory over Russia in a decisive 1998 World Cup qualifier.
He also played at the European Championship finals in England in 1996.
Ivanov, Bulgaria’s Footballer of the Year in 1996, also had spells at Real Betis in Spain and Switzerland’s Neuchatel Xamax.
Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Tony Jimenez