"I am very tender, but sometimes you have to put on the mask. And be tough."
Hristo Stoichkov (Plovdiv, Bulgaria, 1966) takes the journalist by the hand into his particular world of emotions.
There where triumphal episodes pile up without apparent order with other stormy ones;
the tears shed by those who are gone, Johan Cruyff or Trifon Ivanov;
the compliments and extreme loyalty towards their referents, but also the insults to their enemies.
Failure to transcribe them would have corrupted the photograph.
"I am who I am. I do not hide. I will never change," he warns EL MUNDO from Miami, where he established his residence when he began working with the media conglomerate Univisión.
He has published his autobiography in Spain with the assurance of having been transparent.
"But they will always find some reason to crucify me," he wrote.
On his WhatsApp profile he still shows that photo in which he shows a radiant smile.
Beside him, the 1994 Ballon d'Or.
Once upon a time there was a Bulgarian who won the Ballon d'Or and reached the top of football, this Ballon d'Or is not from Hristo Stoichkov.
It would be disrespectful to many people.
Without my family, my wife, children, parents, coaches, physical trainers, doctors, the public ... Without all of them it would have been impossible.
I don't like to say that I won the Ballon d'Or or the European Cup.
Because there are many people behind.
But I did fulfill my dream as a child.
My whole career was about achieving my goals.
As a child, my goal was to play soccer.
I started with nine years.
I just wanted to play!
Then, get to the First Division.
I got it.
As well as reaching the selection.
Be the best player in Bulgaria.
Winning the Golden Boot. He was chaining goals, one after another.
I tried a lot.
I worked a lot.
He trained twice as much.
And I listened. The story seems beautiful, but it is not so beautiful.
Something always happened. My sports career was not easy.
When I was 12 they told me that I couldn't play soccer.
They fired me.
They told me it was worthless.
The sadness I had when I left the field with my backpack, my boots, my ball inside ... I went to my house crying.
My father, may he rest in peace, asked me why I was crying.
And I replied: 'I can no longer continue in football.
Tomorrow I'm going to the field to work. '
And he told me not to worry.
That there would be other teams.
I went to Third Division, away from my parents.
They named me the best player and they called me from CSKA Sofía.
But I came across another new stone.
At the age of 19, they sanctioned me for life.
[The final of the 1985 Bulgarian People's Republic Cup, which pitted CSKA against their arch-nemesis, Sofia Levski, ended in a brawl.
Stoichkov and four other Levski players were sanctioned by the Party for never playing federated football again ... until the amnesty came].
Before I had to go to military service.
I would get up at five in the morning to cut bread.
He gave people food.
But I also went with the shotgun to the forest.
Although the stones kept appearing.
Like the stomp on Urizar Azpitarte already with Barcelona.
This was my life as an athlete.
But I'm a fighter, my own mistakes took weight, my own mistake was when I stepped on the referee.
But that happened, and today I have a great friendship with Urizar.
I asked forgiveness.
When I presented my book he came to Bulgaria.
He got excited.
We took him to the stand.
He is part of my career.
From the bad I did, I also learned that things are the way they are. Van Gaal put him as a left back in a classic, Hristo Stoichkov playing as a left back.
I was not a defender, I was a forward!
I won the Ballon d'Or playing upstairs, scoring goals.
It was absurd. Bulgaria reached the semifinals of the 1994 World Cup in the United States. We were a group of close friends.
And with colorful characters. Trifon Ivanov, number 3, who played for Betis, had a beard, long hair ... It was scary. But he was a boy with such a big heart that he couldn't stand him [he died in February 2016].
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