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Former Premier League forward Dimitar Berbatov has opened up on the heartbreak of conceding last-minute goals as a player – and he reached out to Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham fans who have suffered similar feelings while watching their teams.
Berbatov built a reputation as one of the English top-flight’s deadliest forwards during his spells with Tottenham and United.
The Bulgarian was usually the one delivering the devastating blows that left his opponents feeling destroyed.
However, the 40-year-old has also been on the receiving end and has told the tale from a player’s point of view.
“Most of the time football can be very cruel to players, teams and especially fans,” Betfair ambassador Berbatov said.
“You can have a great game and deserve to be winning but then in the 95th minute a decision could go against you and ‘bam’, you lose the match and you are heartbroken.
“It used to take me a long time to get over these moments.”
It is not just football players who suffer the pain as fans are also hit hard.
Betfair put Berbatov in touch with three supporters of leading Premier League clubs to share stories on things going wrong on a match day.
“I enjoyed speaking to the three fans and hearing about their unfair moments,” Berbatov explained.
“Their stories were sad, unfortunate but also funny. I was listening to them and I couldn’t believe that these things actually happened, they were so unlucky. I’m sure we all have a story like one of theirs and it’s good to laugh about it.
“I’m looking forward to my new role as VAR-Batov and I am going to be a fair judge.
“I will always speak the truth and call out the injustices that I see, after all, it’s only fair.”
One of those supporters was United fan Dan, 35, from Stockport.
He said: “When Berbatov came on I couldn’t believe it, it was amazing to spend time with such a great United player and talk about football and things at the club.
“After the call, I spent the afternoon watching videos and highlights of his greatest goals. He wasn’t at the club for as long as some of the other greats, but he is one of my favourite United players. He was so good for the club, him and United just went together like chips and gravy.
“Ever since, I’ve been telling my mates how he’s now a good friend and how we’re on a first name basis. It was awesome telling them about it.
“Back in 1999 when United won the treble I was watching the final at home with my family. 60 minutes in I needed the toilet, I knew United would score because they always scored late. When Teddy Sheringham scored the equaliser I jumped up and went crazy, then I ran upstairs to the toilet, washed my hands and as I came out I heard screaming from the living room, I missed United’s winning goal.
“The commentators said, ‘you’ll always remember where you were when this goal was scored’, well, I was in the toilet, I’d missed it all.
“Although, I’m still gutted about missing the winning goal, meeting Berbatov has certainly softened the blow.”
Another was 41-year-old Spurs fan Richard, who said: “”It was bonkers, he’s a Spurs legend and I was blown away to see him on the call. As soon as I heard his voice I thought ‘oh my God, it’s Berba!’
“He’s up there as one of Spurs’ greatest ever players, he was a magician and I’ve been watching the club since 1987 and I haven’t seen many players better than him.
“It was interesting to hear his views, everyone has their opinion on Spurs at the minute, but speaking to someone who’s been in football, at the club and in similar situations, you really get that human aspect of everything.
“Sometimes in life it feels like you’re not meant to have nice things, as a Spurs fan we’ve had it pretty tough recently. We did have it good for a while under Pochettino and we played some of the best football that I’ve seen us play.
“I don’t know what’s happened since then, we went to the Champions League final and the dream was shattered after 22 seconds, it was awful. We didn’t give him time and got rid of him and went for the master in disaster, Jose Mourinho
“It’s been hard being a Spurs fan recently, last season wasn’t much fun and all the style was killed from the club. I’m lucky, I can remember when we did win trophies, but it has been a long time.
“I’ve been a fan since 1987, I can remember when we had Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne and were winning things.
“It’s still early days this season, but I’m happy with how they have started.”
Finally was was 40-year-old Arsenal fan, Adil, originally from London, was shocked when he saw Berbatov.
“When I was telling my story of my unfair moment it was a brilliant surprise to meet a Premier League great,” he said.
“When he first came on the screen and turned his chair around I thought he was a James Bond villain. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it was Berbatov.
“It was a once in a lifetime experience for me to speak to Berbatov and I’ve watched Arsenal play plenty of times, so it was well worth missing the North London derby back then.
“Even though he’s a Spurs legend, it was great to speak to him about Arsenal and hear his views. Even though he’s played for Tottenham he’s one of those great Premier League characters.
“When I was younger I used to work nights, and I managed to get tickets to watch my team Arsenal take on Spurs at Highbury. It was going to be my first game watching the Gunners live. I finished work at 7.30am and the match kicked off at 3pm. I had two options, sleep for a couple of hours and get up, or stay up and fight off the urge to sleep.
“I managed to stay up until about 1pm and then next thing I knew, I was waking up and it was 10pm and I’d missed the whole game.
“I had a load of texts from my friend who I was supposed to be going to the game asking where I was. Pires and Henry both scored great goals and I missed a good win against our rivals.”
Betfair’s VAR-Batov series will start next week, and people are encouraged to tweet their moments of football injustice from the upcoming weekend that have affected their bet to @Betfair using #VARBatov.
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