Football: 60 days until the start of the World Cup finals...

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The Independent Online
THE president of Bulgaria craves success for his country's footballers at the World Cup finals to distract this citizens from the harsh realities of life in the Balkan nation.

"Sport is a a very important social factor," President Petar Stoyanov said on Thursday. "Bulgarians are undergoing difficult social and economic reforms and are paying a high social price for that. They need a boost and success in France will give us confidence."

In post-communist Bulgaria, living standards are low and unemployment high. Football plays a part in politics: Stoyanov used the support of players like Hristo Stoichkov to help him win the presidency in 1996 by a landslide.