Krassimir Balakov and HGFD managing director G. Willeit after "Bala's" last match - Photo: W. Kehl
Balakov began his career playing football on the streets graduating to playing professionally for 60 euro a month in Bulgaria. Despite his many years as a match-winning power for the Bulgarian national side and mid-field powerhouse and playmaker at VfB Stuttgart, Krassimir Balakov never forgot his origins, the humble beginnings of his brilliant career and his home country, marked by poverty and economic crisis. For years he has paid special attention to the fate of children who are unprovided for and abandoned in Bulgaria, where, to this day, the professional child-care facilities are inadequate.
In his role as "FIFA for SOS Children's Villages" Ambassador, he uses every visit to Bulgaria as an opportunity to go and see the SOS Children's Villages in Dren and Trjavna. Numerous sporting events, such as his impressive farewell game in front of 42,000 spectators in Stuttgart's Gottlieb Daimler Stadium in May 2003, have always been influenced - both materially and ideally - by his charitable work for SOS Children's Villages children. Georg Willeit, managing director of Hermann-Gmeiner-Fonds Deutschland e.V., said at Balakov's emotional farewell from the playing field: "Krassimir Balakov does not only stand up for SOS Children's Villages in public, but with his visits he also gives the children immense self-confidence. Balakov is an idol at the SOS Children's Village, just as he is in the stadium."
Photo: M. Mägi
Even after a busy career as a footballer, he is sticking with his commitment to those children, for whom he has long been a mentor. Balakov does not only take his own role as ambassador seriously; he has told former club colleague, Alexander Hleb all about it and persuaded him too to take on the role of ambassador for FIFA and SOS Children's Villages.
On the occasion of his being named FIFA/SOS Ambassador for Bulgaria, Krassimir Balakov pointed to how he wanted to make the most of his position and use the opportunities open to him as a renowned footballer for social ends:
"I shall be an ambassador of a wonderful idea - to render affection, security and protection for children, who had lost their parents and native home. Children, who after certain time shall properly do honour to Bulgaria at European and World sports' championships. Many children in the world grow up under their parents' care, but thousands of others do not have it. They do not know what it is to go to school, whom to embrace and what love means. The SOS Children's Villages are created for such children.
FIFA wants to direct its attention towards these SOS Children's Villages, towards children, who need support and affection. I am happy to be helpful to children deprived of parents. The FIFA idea is to make popular the support for children left without parents. With my name and possibilities I shall try to contribute for the popularisation of the idea. The more people gained for the idea, the better. That is the aim. The material things are important for the children without parents, but they are very happy when famous people are in contact with them. I can make football players and sports enthusiasts as a whole not only from Bulgaria pay visit to children without parents in Trjavna and Dren."