Tsvetan Sokolov (Tsetso) in action during the Olympic qualifiers in Xi’an

Tsetso Sokolov in action during the Olympic qualifiers in Xi’an

For Tsvetan Sokolov, the FIVB Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifiers were the last tournament as a member of the Bulgarian national team. The star opposite and captain of the Lions confirmed his decision to put an end to his national team career upon the squad’s return home from the event in Xi’an.

“Yes, that was my last tournament with the national team,” Sokolov told the media at the airport in Sofia. “This is very emotional for me. It was an honour and a pleasure to wear the Bulgarian colours and the Bulgarian flag. I am extremely thankful for all the emotions the national team gave me. But I think I have to put an end to this journey, because there are other boys, who need to start theirs. I think 17 years with the national team is enough for me.”

Led by their 2.06m-tall captain, Bulgaria showed a much improved performance at the Olympic qualifications in comparison to their recent previous competitions. They stopped short of claiming a berth at Paris 2024, but even their fifth place in Pool C and the four wins in seven matches were probably a better-than-expected result, since they entered the tournament as the lowest ranked among the eight participating teams in the pool. Sokolov was Bulgaria’s leading scorer in five of the six matches he started in Xi’an, reaching 20+ points in four of them. In his very last match in the Bulgarian jersey, the 33-year-old striker hammered out an impressive 27 points towards the 3-2 victory over Belgium and finished as the fourth best scorer of the pool.

“It was quite difficult to make that decision,” Sokolov added. “I had been thinking about it over the last couple of seasons. I always want to give 100% when playing for the team, but my body can no longer handle the load. We all tried to qualify for the Olympics. Unfortunately, we stopped just short of achieving that goal. Everyone wants to go to the Olympic Games and that dream is the last thing that dies away.”

Sokolov was first called to the national team in 2006, when he was only 16 years old. During his time with the Lions, he helped the squad earn bronze at the 2009 CEV European Championship and reach fourth place at the London 2012 Olympics, the most recent time Bulgaria appeared at the Games. He was named on the Dream Team of the 2013 FIVB Volleyball World League and became the best scorer of the World League in 2016.

“It is a privilege to play for the national team and represent your country,” Sokolov pointed out. “There are some extremely talented young boys who need to get a chance to make their difficult journeys through the national team, to suffer through and learn from the downs, the mistakes and the problems they will face. With hard work and sacrifice I think the team can once again be among the top 10 in the world.”

Canada (CAN) vs. Bulgaria (BUL) men - Pool C #7270383

Sokolov celebrates along with Bulgaria’s new up-and-coming star Aleksandar Nikolov

The Bulgarian star’s even more fabulous club career continues. He started his professional path at Bulgaria’s Marek Union Ivkoni Dupnitsa and went through top-calibre teams in Italy, Türkiye and Russia. In addition to numerous national trophies in these countries, Sokolov claimed the FIVB Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship title with Italy’s Itas Diatec Trentino Trento as many as three times and triumphed in the CEV Champions League as many as three times, twice with Trentino and once with another Italian club, Cucine Lube Civitanova. His collection features another eight podiums in the two prestigious competitions combined. Three Best Opposite and two Best Scorer recognitions in the Club World Championships and one Best Opposite and two Best Scorer honours in the Champions League are the most notable among the many individual accolades Sokolov has celebrated in his club career so far.