Bulgarian football icon Hristo Stoichkov accused French referee Joel Quiniou of robbing him of his childhood dream of becoming FIFA World Cup champion in 1994. "As a child, I dreamed if becoming a football player, to win the Golden Ball, the Golden Boot. All of this came true", Stoichkov told state BNT television in an interview. "My biggest dream as a footballer was however crushed by a French referee. I will never forgive him", the 45-year-old former national team and Barcelona star striker said.
Stoichkov led Bulgaria's national team to the semifinals at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the USA, a game they lost 1-2 to Italy. Bulgarian football fans have accused French referee Joel Quiniou (photo) of robbing the team of an equalizer in the second half of the game by failing to penalise a handball by Italian Alessandro Costacurta. The slow motion repeat of the incident toured Bulgarian television channels at the time, sparking nationwide anger. "He mocked me, the coaches, the whole Bulgarian people. I've met him after that game in the US and I demonstratively spit in his face", the notoriously temperamental Stoichkov said on Thursday. The legendary striker was awarded the Golden boot as the World Cup's joint top goal scorer and also won France Football's Golden Ball award the same year.