"Two Nikolovs" in the Bulgarian national team

Vrnjačka Banja, Serbia, March 5, 2021. Volleyball legend Vladimir Nikolov, the former captain of the men’s national team of Bulgaria and now president of Levski SOFIA, is currently attending the BVA zonal qualifier for this year’s #EuroVolleyU17M in Vrnjačka Banja, Serbia. He has travelled to Serbia in his capacity of team manager of the U17 men’s national team of the Balkan country, whose roster includes his second son, Simeon, born in 2006.

Vladimir ‘Vlado’ Nikolov played in Bulgaria, Turkey, France, Japan and Italy, and officially ended his competitive career back in 2016. However, he eventually returned to play for Levski in the 2018-2019 season, doing so alongside his elder son, Aleksandar. To see father and son playing together was quite a sensation; now Vladimir is mentoring his second son Simeon, who plays as a setter for Team Bulgaria.

“The situation was curious and at the same time very difficult for us, because we started the 2018-2019 season with six spikers, meaning four outside hitters and two opposites, and at some point, as many as four of them were injured. Therefore, I had two options. To stop the season and withdraw from competition, or to try to play some games myself, while at least one of the injured players would recover. While I was playing the first match with Levski, another player broke his leg, which was extremely unfortunate for us. I was coaching the team at the time. I looked at the bench and there was no one. The only possibility was that my son Aleksandar, who was only 14 at the time, would step onto the court and so he did. We played two sets together. We lost, of course, but it was fun,” says Nikolov.

According to Vlado, his youngest son Filip (born in 2015) is not interested in Volleyball, at least for now. However, only time will tell whether one day two or maybe three Nikolov brothers will be playing for the Bulgarian national team.

“Volleyball is my life and it is normal that after my active career I decided to stay close to the sport. Moreover, it is only natural that my sons follow me. They are good enough. I hope that one day they can play together for the national team of Bulgaria, and will be as successful as the Grbić brothers for Yugoslavia and Serbia,” Nikolov concluded.

Vladimir Nikolov won three ‘major’ bronze medals with Bulgaria: at the 2006 World Championship in Japan, at the 2007 World Cup held in Japan as well and at the 2009 edition of the European Championship in Turkey. Throughout his club career, Nikolov won the 2004/2005 edition of the CEV Champions League with the French team TOURS VB, receiving the award for the Most Valuable Player of the finals held in Thessaloniki.