6 stories of honor and passion in Bulgarian rugby
6 stories of honor and passion in Bulgarian rugby

Among those unfamiliar with the philosophy of the sport of rugby, there is an opinion that it is a rough sport, full of pushing and other types of aggression. And in fact, it is a real contact sport, in which, however, the thoughts of individual competitors are directed for the sake of the good and success of the team, and the opponent is treated with great respect.

Several examples of passion, team spirit and the feeling of defending Bulgaria’s honor were told by Kostadin Debrenliev - national competitor, selector of the country’s youth rugby team (under 20), teacher of this sport at New Bulgarian University .

  1. How we grew up in a hurry

In the 2015/16 season, the juniors of “Lokomotiv” (Sf) from the sets of 1998, 1999 and 2000, with whom I also trained, imperatively had to represent the club in a higher group - senior age. Then coach Tihomir Simeonov told us: “Guys, we will suffer defeats, but this will unite us a lot and in time we will become champions.” Then our first match was against the mythical “Valjatsi” (Pernik), who were a very strong team and later became champions. In the first match in Pernik they beat us 50:0. I was the captain then, but I didn’t play because I was injured, but after that loss I gathered the boys in the dressing room and told them: “Look, we’re going to beat them in the second leg. We’re not going to catch up, but we’re going to beat them!”

At first they didn’t believe me, but then something seemed to ignite in them. At the very first training session after this match, we gathered 35 people, 30 of whom were juniors. Then I realized that they took my words seriously. We trained every day for two weeks. At the last training session before the match, we gathered in a “circle” to say final words. When I looked into their eyes, I already saw some men. These were boys of 15-16 years of age who were ready to go above and beyond, just to win this game.

The next day we gathered and it turned out that three of our main players were missing because they were prevented by surprising reasons. And we had to go out 14 instead of 15 people on the field. We had no reserves and played a man down the whole game. I gave a motivational speech before kick-off, but as soon as we went out to play, I knew this game was ours. We played entirely in the Pernicani half. We led against the strongest team at the time with 14:0 or 15:0. Then they gave us back some essays, but we kept pushing them and making them make mistakes. We took turns marking. We won, albeit by not enough points to continue. But the feeling remained that we managed to beat much bigger players than us, and from the best team in Bulgaria at the time, and with one less person.

  1. A joke with switching roles on the field

After this victory, we realized that we have to be united to win. At the time, they were broadcasting the Six Nations tournament - one of the biggest events in the world of rugby. We agreed to watch all the games together, in different places. The first weekend was at our place. All the boys came, we watched Scotland v England and commented on how we should play. That’s when we started to feel like we were a team. Even if we don’t become first, we will keep ourselves as a team.

We played in Gabrovo in a match for third place against “Spartak” (Varna), which was quite strong, including physically. And we were still boys, children. Then I jokingly suggested to my teammates that we exchange positions on the field if we took the lead. Without the coach’s knowledge. Everyone was ecstatic - we had gone there to enjoy the game in the first place.

That’s how it happened - we took the lead and during one of the skirmishes we tried the exchange and got mixed up absolutely all in unfamiliar positions. Tihomir Simeonov only looked at us from the bench, but said nothing. However, everyone around him was laughing. The people of Varna did not know what was happening and what this unexpected tactic was. We played like this for about 15 minutes and as a result one of our clumsier teammates managed to run an enviable distance and score a try. After the game, our coach was furious despite the win, but on the other hand he was very surprised to see this boy run so well for the first time. After the success, we even exchanged jersey numbers.

But the most important thing after these two victories was that we became a team, we learned to be united even in the most difficult moments, to be rugby players. And to be a rugby player is to surpass yourself in every match you play in and to believe in your teammates.

  1. The team spirit that a Frenchman brought to Lokomotiv

This happened in the last two years, since 2021, after I returned from abroad to Lokomotiv. At that time, the Frenchman Adrien Frigola appeared, who is in Bulgaria because he wants to find a new and interesting job. He arrived at the Lokomotiv stadium out of pure curiosity, with no intention of playing rugby. But our coach Tihomir Simeonov understands that Frigola is a former professional player of “Toulouse” in rugby league (variety of rugby), and immediately offers him to join the coaching team.

This man has changed the culture in Lokomotiv for two years. Introduced European traditions as after a match to nominate who is # 1 and to receive, for example, a T -shirt. As well as the worst player of the match, which is the title of purely humorous orientation and the chosen one, for example, is to drink a steak of beer on ex.

Thus, Frigola managed to unite us and solve a big problem, as we had not won a single match for almost three years. Even most boys started to give up. And this Frenchman helped Lokomotiv again become a factor in the championship, as well as lay the foundations for a championship team.

  1. First Call for the National Team

Two years ago, after my collection from Italy, I received an email from national team breeder Romain Balmis that I was included in the visit against Bosnia and Herzegovina. I even keep it. So far, I have not seen a professional attitude in Bulgaria. And I was surprised to see one after our arrival in the pupil - we did a workout for a relaxation after a long trip. Then we worked for strength, flexibility, other specific things. All the while, the coaching team gave us information on how the Bosnians played in separate situations.

At the hotel, I encountered the rule that you could not start eating until the last one in the team was sitting on the table. Or the captain does not say “attack”, which in our rugby language means “good appetite”. And then I realized how Balmis had been able to build a team in a short time. Moreover, from players of several clubs, who have even been on the pitch so far, have rivaled. And now they have to come together for 2-3 days.

Fun games invented by Romain Balmis also helped this for the team building. For example, we divide into units and play on a “stone-buta-paper”. If you win, you have the right to hit the other on the head with a soft hammer, and he has the right to put on a helmet. We often confused in the speed and a big laugh was falling.

In the evening before the match, the teams were handed over to us. Then Romain called for my brother (b. - Smilko Debrenliev, also a current national competitor) to hand over mine. This was symbolic because until 15 years ago my father and his brother had played together for the national team and now again two Debrenlii brothers were standing next to each other on the international stage. It was a very emotional moment, which was then lined with a nice victory over the Bosnians with 49:24.

  1. To surprise a clear favorite

On October 15, 2022, our national team performed a small miracle, beating as a guest the strong team of Malta (b. - # 45 in the world, and by comparison our team is No. 59). It was also our first match in our current division (Conference 1 - South, the third level of the European rugby under the six nations) where we had teams that we had never won as rivals. Let’s think to beat them on their territory.

And our first match was against Malta, there. However, even at departure, we felt that we would win this match. We trained all week high intensity. And every workout was exactly 80 minutes - as much as the match. We constantly worked on our weak units. Apart from our arrival in Malta, our coach Romain Balmis told us to move always and everywhere, as a team. Because in previous visits, we often divided into walking groups.

On the covenant Saturday - the day of the match, we did the traditional morning move. Then I saw everyone knew the place on the pitch, and for the first time I was convinced that even if the Lord came down, we could not be defeated. At the same time, many experts claimed that our rise would stop directly against Malta.

The weather was hot and humid, but we had acclimated enough days. On the warm -up, I saw the Maltese came out calm, with self -confidence, inflated, not even heated seriously. On the harvesting to the changing rooms before the match, their T -shirts were dry, and we were sweat and in the eyes of the boys we could see the desire and an angry to achieve this victory. The martial spirit of the Bulgarian people could be seen.

The last match between Bulgaria and Malta was in 2003 and I remember it, because then my father took me for the first time to watch the national team - at Lokomotiv Stadium. Malta would be very much - 96: 3. And now, when I was able to play against the Maltese, I wanted a rematch in me. Because even then I had told my father that I wanted to play against Malta and I wanted revenge for what they did then. With such a setting I came out.

And what happened - at halftime we were already running 9: 0 or 12: 0. In the middle of Malta! In the dressing room between the two parts, Balmis told us that we should play even harder if we wanted to win this match. To be even faster and uncompromising. And we came out like real lions. In the end, we won with 23:14, for the first time in Malta! And their audience was silent. And the joyful Balmis told me after the end: “Hey, today is Malta, and tomorrow it will be New Zealand!” And then I realized that our rugby Tim is the national team of Bulgaria, which can show the whole country what it is like to play with a desire for your country, to fight for it.

  1. A premonition for heroism… and a European title for Bulgaria in Belgrade

In June 2021, we went to Belgrade to play matches on rugby-7 (a variety of the game with seven competitors from each team) at Conference 1 of Europe. At that time, we had fallen out of the upper Trophy Division and our nationals were very hurt that we would play at the lower level again.

We were able to get a one -week NSA camp. We trained Trirazovo very hard. No one was expecting us to become champions. But we knew it, our playing coach Ivaylo Ivanov too. We arrived in Belgrade and our bus stopped in front of a very modern hotel. We were not overnight in a similar one and we started joking that it was confused and we should actually sleep in an unfinished building nearby. But this time the federation had chosen the best for us.

We were greeted as champions inside, only us and the Monaco team were. Everyone else was staying at cheaper hotels. Ivaylo told us: “Guys, we are obliged to become champions. They expect it from us. ” And we played with teams that we had never won on Rugby-7: Moldova, Austria, let alone Monaco, who had poured 8 million euros to prepare for this tournament.

And we started - the first three games, three wins (over Slovenia, Montenegro and Andorra). The next day the tension grows - we would Austria 24: 7. We also won against Moldova - 17:14.

Finally, Monaco confronts us. There was a very dangerous player in their lineup I knew in matches of adolescent formations. I warned my teammates about him so that we could cultivate him on the pitch and score as few points as possible. But Monaco led us with 14-0 and this is exactly the player made an essay.

At that time we had a competitor from NSA Boris Todorov, who is an introvert. He sits alone, doesn’t talk to anyone. Before the match, I told him, “Now will you celebrate an essay in the match?” He replied, “No, I’ll mark a hat trick, and my last essay will be the victorious.”

And… first, Bobby Todorov’s essay - 7:14. Second essay for him - 14:14. Last minute - Bobby Todorov’s third essay - 21:14! And then he turned to me and calmly told me: “Did I tell you?!”

At that moment, emotions were bursting out-experienced rugbyists such as Ivaylo Ivanov, Tsvetostin Tsvetkov and the captain of our rugby team (the most common version) Peter Nikolov wept. These great men who have tried so many times have finally won a European title and the right to return to the upper “Trophy” division.

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