Every major tournament has a surprise package, a side dismissed amidst all the hype of the build up and with little pressure or expectation play with an abandon that results in entertaining, positive football. The 1994 World Cup in the USA was not the most memorable in the tournaments history. However one nation that did illuminate throughout was Bulgaria.
Whilst eventually losing out to Italy in the semi-finals, their surprising progression was largely thanks to a talented squad that included Hristo Stoichkov, Borislav Mikhailov and Yordan Letchkov. And it was Letchkov's smartly taken header in the quarter-finals against Germany that saw his team progress.
Letchkov began and ended a compelling career playing for his hometown side, Sliven, a modest club in a large town in mid-eastern Bulgaria. Letchkov is still the clubs Chairman and is also the Vice President of the Bulgarian Football Union.
Between stints on his footballing home soil, Letchkov played for CSKA Sofia before moving to Germany in 1992 to join Hamburger SV. Having impressed in 1994, Letchkov again impressed in the 1996 European Championships in England. Unfortunately the same cohesive unit that shone in the States failed to make the knock out stages. Still though his pedigree rose and Olympique Marseille moved in for the creative midfielder after the tournament.
However his strong personality came to a head with the management team at Marseille and a move to Besiktas in Turkey beckoned in 1997. However his time at Besiktas was also cut short when he fell out with manager John Toshack, quit the club and dramatically quit football. Apparently.
In a strange series of events Letchkov began to train locally after returning to Bulgaria and was fined by Besiktas who were still his employers. When he lined out for the national side he was again reported by Besiktas to UEFA and FIFA. Eventually FIFA ruled that without the permission of Besiktas he could not play internationally. Besiktas stayed true to this and were steadfast in their position. The final result was that as a result Letchkov missed the 1998 world cup in France despite aiding his countrymen to get there.
He wouldn't play for Bulgaria again.
After a three year hiatus Letchkov returned to professional football with CSKA Sofia and scored 5 times in 25 appearances in the 2001/02 season. The following season he returned home to end his playing days with Sliven.
In 2003, Letchkov ran for office in Sliven and was successfully elected Mayor. Four years later he was re-elected. In 2010 he was removed from office after being charged with official misconduct but on appeal he was restored to the post later that summer.
However this month his trial was heard and the state prosecutors pursued him for signing an unprofitable water and sewerage deal. He was also charged with pressurising the local National Revenues Agency office to cover up specific local companies tax audits.
The one time national hero was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison.
The local hero also saw the end of his tenure as mayor of Sliven see thousands of his fellow hometown citizens signing a petition for his removal from office.
His political career appears to have ended and not unlike his footballing career there has been a large chunk of drama along the way. Letchkov however, does have just over two weeks to launch an appeal. Maybe the drama isn't over yet.