Club Cricket Conference

Wednesday, 20th March 2019

Bulgaria aim for credibility to host touring clubs


By Charles Randall

21 February 2018

Why not try a cricket tour to... Bulgaria. The Vatican are having a go in 2018, and other clubs are thinking about it. Nomads CC have arranged weekend matches for May 19/20.

Unlike Germany, another country without any cricket tradition, Bulgarian has not been bolstered by immigrant players from Afghanistan and from the subcontinent, and there is virtually no funding for the sport outside Sofia, the capital. Playing facilities are crude everywhere.

But incoming teams will encounter enthusiam and a cordial welcome from appreciative hosts. That seems to be guaranteed. A few expatriates have been trying to spread the game into the local populace. More Bulgarians are beginning to realise that cricket is the world's second most popular sport.

Derek Stocker, with historic family connections at Birch Vale CC in Derbyshire, and Andrew Searle, a cricket journalist and publisher formerly from Trafford CC, have been to the fore, bringing the sport to their local communities in central Bulgaria.

Stocker is helped a club called Gabrovo Blacksmiths CC in the village of Armanitsa. Six years of labour by a working party carved a decent field from scrubland, using their own money and a small grant from the local council.  "We would love to host incoming teams," Stocker said. "Bulgaria is safe, cheap and friendly, with  beautiful scenery and great history.  If your club is interested, have a look at Bulgaria tourism websites."

Apart from St Peter's, the Vatican side, Gabrovo are hosting matches and organising tournaments for a British Embassy XI, Mike Blumberg's Nomads CC and a Serbian side, always hoping to attract interest from the UK. "Through St Peter's, I am hoping to generate much publicity, to raise awareness in the community and to introduce this beautiful game to the local schools and orphanages in beautiful Bulgaria," said Stocker.

The Bulgaria Cricket Federation has met with success in the capital Sofia and the second city Plovdiv, but ICC-funded resources do not stretch into the less populated central region. It has been left to clubs such as Gabrovo Blacksmiths CC to start youth schemes in the Sevlievo area. A new cricket club in the village of Gostilitsa has won support from the Mayoress of the village and the Mayor of the Dryanovo region, a major boost for credibility. Tourism is an important industry in Bulgaria.

Ivaylo Katsarski, the Gabrovo president, learnt about cricket and fell in love with the game while studying at the National Sports Academy, according to Stocker. Katsarski qualified as a baseball coach and followed that with a cricket coaching qualification. A group of cricket enthusiasts decided to start their own club at Gabrovo because the distance to the cricket venues of Sofia was too great.

After the club's nomadic start, Katsarki and his colleagues bought some land at Armanitsa and spent six years clearing a wooded area, levelling and draining the field in their spare time. They were given no municipal support with funding. After seeding and laying a square they played their first home match as Gabrovo in 2017. Their current project is fencing the whole area to deter wild boar and deer.

Stocker and others are working on introducing cricket to local schools and have already met with success. One problem is a shortage of money. They need help to buy plastic starter kits and then to aim for more ambitious practice aids such as a bowling machine and a high quality roll-up pitch.

The Bulgaria Cricket Federation was formed in 2002 and granted ICC Affiliate status in 2008.

Derek Stocker contact:

Bulgarian tourist information