How It All Started
Varna, Bulgaria (August 2006)
It all started with an off-the-cuff remark about 'Penguins Stopped Play' (my holiday reading) to Marietta, the friendly manageress of the City Mark Hotel. She told me that her friend Lachezar played cricket for Bulgaria. I didn't really believe her at first. Maybe she was confused. Bulgaria didn't have a cricket team, did they? I probed further. I showed her a few photographs on the internet of forward defensives, Shane Warne and Headingley. She was adamant that her friend played this game. In fact she would call him and confirm it.
My thoughts turned to a chapter in Penguins Stopped Play where Harry Thompson describes his village cricket team beating Malaysia. I quote, "We fell to our knees in the rain. We had beaten an entire country. All right, a country with no professional cricketers in its team. On a Tuesday. But we had beaten an entire country."
And I began to wonder if Bulgaria fancied a game against my team..........
Southport, England (September 2006)
Back home in England I sent a few inquisitive emails to Lachezar, who proved to have excellent English (certainly a lot better than my Bulgarian which consisted of the words for beer, Spartak Varna and bread). He contacted his coach in Sofia who agreed that it could be possible. Weh hey!!
But what about my team? Were they as keen as me to go abroad to an ex-communist country to play cricket against the mighty Bulgarians. I put a sheet of paper on the club notice board explaining my plan. Maybe it was the prospect of playing an international cricket team, maybe it was the chance of experiencing a unique foreign culture or maybe it was simply the fact that beer was 30p a pint - whatever the reason, fifteen players signed up within ten minutes. We had a team!
Sofia, Bulgaria (October 2006)
I was making my way in a taxi from the centre of Sofia to the National Sports Academy, on the outskirts of the city, where Lachezar had agreed to meet me. The traffic was very busy and I wasn't feeling that well (nothing to do with the various plum brandy's I had been persuaded to sample the previous evening). Lachezar was there as promised and he led me into a meeting room. Here I met various national coaches - rugby, hockey, gymnastics, cricket and kickboxing. Yes, they would love to organise a tournament for us in July 2007. Everything was agreed. We were going to play an international cricket team.
Lachezar and his team mate showed me around the Sports Academy. The facilities were good for football, tennis and athletics but left a lot to be desired for cricket. They showed me their equipment (see video). They only had four old balls to practice with. These guys were certainly keen to play cricket but it looked like the funding to support them was not there. I set off back to my hotel with another idea. Fundraising.
Southport, England (November 2006)
At the annual club presentation meeting I showed my team-mates the film I had shot. They were all still very keen to go on tour. They also agreed that we needed to take with us some much needed kit for the Bulgarians to further develop the game in their country. And this is where we are up to.
Sunnymede School (where I teach sport) has agreed to raise money in their termly charity and Brabners Chaffe Solicitors have recently come on board as Tour Sponsors. We are grateful to both. Hopefully after reading this you could also do your bit.
Owen Jamieson (Webmaster, Tour Organiser)