New Vics All Set For Bulgarian Seamers’ Special Delivery
Original article by Paul Edwards of The Liverpool Post (January 19th 2007)
GIVEN the undisguised relief that greeted England's first win on their tour of Australia earlier this week, it might be time for cricketers in this country to consider one or two less testing destinations for their foreign adventures.
But it’s also the safest of wagers that few teams will be matching the enterprise and sense of adventure shown by Southport and District League side, New Victoria, this summer when they become the first English club to visit ... Bulgaria.
Even for a game like cricket which attracts a decent quota of the fully paid-up eccentrics, this is one of the more unlikely stories of the year, but as the senior members of the club sat around the kitchen table of the tour's organiser, Owen Jamieson, and explained the details of July's four-day visit to Sofia, it became clear that here was a club seriously intent on doing all they could to foster the growth of the game in a country which only saw its first match in 2000.
"Part of the reason we're going is that we want to play cricket in Bulgaria," explained Jamieson, whose work for the tour is already the stuff of legend.
"But it's also true that they've got hardly any cricket kit in the country. For example, at the National Sports Centre I visited, they've got four cricket balls and they're saving one of those for when we play them.
So the idea is that we'll take out some cricket gear and leave it with them in order to encourage the development of the game over there. Brabners Solicitors have agreed to be our official sponsors and Sunnymede School will be helping out too."
"Bulgaria is affiliated to the International Cricket Conference but I don't think they get much help from them," said Jamieson.
“There is a national organisation but it's called the Bulgarian Cricket and Kick-Boxing Association," he added quietly. Well of course it is.
The idea for this wonderful venture occurred to Jamieson when he was in a hotel-room in Varna, a Bulgarian resort which is a six-hour bus-journey from the capital. "I was reading the late Harry Thompson's book Penguins Stopped Play," he recalled, “and I got to the bit where his team had just beaten Malaysia and I thought it sounded quite good, so I told the receptionist that I'd be playing cricket if I wasn't in Varna and she said she had a friend who played cricket.
"Well if his team ever fancies a game, get in touch" I said, and the upshot is that we're off to Bulgaria."
The fact that New Victoria's only previous tour was to Norfolk ‘about 15 years ago’ was no sort of deterrent to members when Jamieson proposed the trip.
"I put a notice up in the club and within about three minutes there were 13 names up," he said.
"Owen produced a video of the King's Village Hotel where we'll be staying and showed it at the AGM," said Brian Mills, a New Vics member for 15 years, "But by that stage we were all going anyway."
"There are actually important benefits for New Vics," said chairman Peter Hames, "We're a small club but we're slowly getting bigger.
We've got a good junior section and if we show ourselves to be ambitious and helping other teams to develop, it might attract players to join us and persuade some of our existing members to stay with us. It's also a huge adventure for us"
The reaction in Bulgaria has been predictably positive. "They're very pleased about it all," said Jamieson, "There are eight teams in the country but travelling costs mean that they find it difficult to play each other.
“We'll be playing two of them during our stay and also another team who are coming over from Serbia. We've been invited to go there next year."
There's even a chance that the English tourists may be receiving a visit from the British Ambassador, Jeremy Hill, our man in Sofia no less, but whatever publicity the tour attracts, the requirements of league cricket in England will be waiting for New Vics on their return.
"We didn't try to postpone any of our Saturday fixtures because we knew there was no chance of that happening," said club secretary Andy Addison. Quite so.
You'd probably have more chance of touring Bulgaria.