The popular TV host Rosen Petrov took a stand on the hot football topic that excites Bulgaria weeks before the match with Hungary. With a publication on social networks, he recalled the short history of Bulgarian sports and football and wished the new selector Ilian Iliev to return the flame to the players, so that one day they would once again hear the popular shout “Bulgarians, heroes”.
“Do you know who the Levant is with that mustache and laurel wreath? This is Georges de Régibus – the Swiss who brought the first soccer ball to our country and organized the first match in Bulgaria.
The date was May 19, 1894, and the field was in today’s Sea Garden in Varna. Georges was one of those ten brave Swiss men invited to our country to teach physical culture and sports to the people of the young Principality of Bulgaria.
He was a teacher at the Varna Boys’ High School, in whose beautiful building today the Varna City Art Gallery is located.
I say “brave teachers” because these people actually laid the foundations not only of sports in our country, but also created the heroic societies and many “Bulgarian-heroes” who would later fight on the battlefields of our wars. One of them – Louis Iyer, will die fighting for Bulgaria in the First World War, but I have already told you about him.
Their comrade Charles Champeau (you see him in the photo with the suit) will organize a football match in my native Sofia, Bulgaria, but one year later – in 1895. However, he will be the first athlete to participate on behalf of Bulgaria at the Olympic Games. And not just any, but the first Olympic Games – those in Athens in 1896. There he competed as a gymnast, and Bulgaria forever remains one of the first 14 countries in the world that participated in the first modern Olympic Games.
What am I telling you this story about? Today, our national team will play Hungary in a match turned by all the scandals in recent days into a sad tragicomedy and a frank circus. Let’s wish success at least to coach Ilian Iliev, he is from my generation, brought up to live in one way, and lived and lives in another.
A generation that preserved at least some remnants of national feeling. Hopefully, the fact that he comes from Varna – the city from which the soccer ball was first carried on the dusty fields in our country, has brought him at least a little bit of historical experience against the strong Hungarians. I wish that one day he will be able to remind his players that they are playing not only for themselves, but also for those hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians who experience pain and sadness with each of their losses.
They play for the memory and for those smiling and strong boys of our past who played with endless passion and talent, and didn’t even have tattoos, let alone fancy carriages to drive around the revolving pubs of our country.
They play for every Bulgarian town and village where the boys’ league ran and run past a soccer ball. They also play for this Georges de Régibus, because even the famous “Bulgarians-youths” chant comes from the “Yunak” societies he created with Louis Ayer, and from Dobri Chintulov’s verse:
will we still sleep
let’s break free!
Oh lion, wake up
from deep sleep
cried out loudly
from the Balkans out.”
Let us wish to live one day to hear Chintulov’s cry again in our stadiums. If we have stadiums,” wrote Petrov.