Football: Blooming Stoichkov

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The Independent Online
Bulgaria's volatile striker Hristo Stoichkov brought new meaning to the phrase "say it with flowers" as he ended a dispute with the national team's head coach.

Stoichkov, who pulled out of the side last year, is now expected to rejoin the national side, a senior official said yesterday.

Stoichkov, who plays for Bobby Robson at Barcelona, met with Bulgaria's head coach, Hristo Bonev, in their home town of Plovdiv after his arrival from Spain on Monday, Mihail Kasabov, the first vice-president of the Bulgarian Football Union said.

"Bonev just told me that Stoichkov unexpectedly rang the bell of his house yesterday carrying a bunch of flowers and apologised for the offensive words quoted by the local media, a big part of them having been exaggerated," Kasabov said.

Stoichkov was expected to meet up with the squad yesterday evening in the Black Sea port of Bourgas, where they play a World Cup European Group Five qualifier against Luxembourg on 8 June.

However, it is not certain whether he will play, as Bonev has yet to decide whether to include Stoichkov against Luxembourg, as he has not been in his plans so far.

Stoichkov, who played a major role as Bulgaria became World Cup semi- finalists for the first time in 1994, quit the team last year after demanding the resignation of football officials who sacked the former national coach, Dimitar Penev.