Young goalkeeper Iliya Shalamanov-Trenkov is coming through at Bulgarian giants CSKA Sofia but wants to one day represent the Socceroos on the international stage.
Shalamanov-Trenkov was born in Brisbane but moved to Bulgaria with his family several years later.
He received his footballing education in the eastern European country and joined CSKA’s academy in 2014.
Now the 20-year-old is currently on loan to Litex, in the club’s second division, with the aim of eventually cracking the first-team of ‘The Army’ and then the Socceroos.
“I was born in Brisbane in 2002,” Shalamanov-Trenkov told FTBL.
“My father worked for Brisbane Broncos and my mother was an English teacher. To be able to help their old mothers, my parents returned to Bulgaria.
“I lived in Petrich, my parents' hometown, for the next nine years. Here I discovered my vocation to be a football player. I started training in an organized way at the age of eight. I changed several positions until I realized that my place was as a goalkeeper.
“In a small town like Petrich (located on the border between Bulgaria, Greece and Macedonia), football is played all day and everywhere - streets, parks, yards and schools.
“Being a goalkeeper may be genetically set, because my grandfather was a legendary city goalkeeper.”
CSKA have won 31 Bulgarian titles and 21 Bulgarian Cups in their 78-year history.
Shalamanov-Trenkov entered the club’s youth set-up seven years ago and has not looked back.
“I was selected for CSKA in 2014 by two of the club's legends - Dzhevizov and Gaganelov,” he said.
“I chose CSKA when there were big financial problems before the proposal of another team, which at that time was the most financially powerful in Bulgaria. I never regretted it.
“Being part of CSKA is a great feeling. Even when we passed the balls during the matches of the first-team, I felt proud to wear the team of this great team. For all CSKA players are provided excellent conditions for training and accommodation.
“CSKA is the greatest team in the history of Bulgaria. In my opinion, the fans of other teams would say the same. This is the team with the most championship titles and has created players like Hristo Stoichkov, Dimitar Berbatov, Stilyan Petrov and many others.
“This is where the careers of players who have played for Barcelona, Manchester United and City, Atletico Madrid, Porto, Bayern Munich and many others started.”
The keeper, who stands 1.95 metres tall, has been loaned to Litex until the end of the 2021-2022 season.
In 17 appearances in the second division this season he has managed four cleansheets.
“In order to be ready for the big football, the team management decided to send me on loan to a team from the second professional league,” Shalamanov-Trenkov explained.
“Now I play in the Litex team regularly, I have more than 30 official matches and I think I am the youngest professional goalkeeper in Bulgaria.
“The level of play is good, mostly Bulgarians play, because in the First League, due to the rules for free engagement, European players are played by many foreigners.
"The Litex team is made up of quite young players, who usually become the basis of teams in the First League.”
Shalamanov-Trenkov is not the only professional footballer in his family, with his younger brother Georgi currently on the books at CSKA.
“My brother Georgi was also born in Australia in 2004 and is also a CSKA player,” he said.
“He is a unique technical and disciplined football player and according to many experts he will one day be a great player.
Despite his Bulgarian background and heritage, the shot-stopper’s connection to Australia remains strong and he is keen to represent the green and gold and eventually even play in the A-League.
“I was born in Australia and I hope to one day play for Australia at national and club level,” Shalamanov-Trenkov said.
“Yes, I also have a Bulgarian passport, but this is my decision. Australia has always had great goalkeepers like Mark Schwarzer, Mark Bosnich and Mat Ryan, and I work hard every day to have a similar career.
“I hope one day to deserve my first choice in a team like CSKA, Manchester United or to be a champion with an Australian team. My biggest dream is to play with Australia at the World Cup and to perform perfectly.”