Bulgaria qualifies for the European Basketball Championship. News that surprised many … And it should not be so – although this sport is not №1 in popularity in our country, this does not mean that our country does not have its own traditions in it.
And built for decades.
Yes, the national team had not reached EuroBasket since 2011, but after a decade break they did it and next year they will again be among the best in Europe, where in fact is the place of our country in view of the history of continental championships.
The Bulgarian national team is one of the ten participants at the first ever edition of the European Basketball Championship – in 1935 in Geneva. This championship was used as a main rehearsal for the debut of the basketball game in the Olympic family – in Berlin a year later. Nevertheless, it is a fact that Bulgaria is one of the teams there, in the first European, where it finished in eighth place. Let’s achieve a victory against Hungary.
A curious detail – the first European champion from 86 years ago is Latvia. It was this opponent that we defeated on Saturday to reach the championship in 2022.
This is just the beginning, because in the next almost a century, our country will qualify for the championship of the Old Continent 25 times (BR – including our current ranking) out of a total of 40 possible.
Of course, our greatest successes are the two medals – silver and bronze, won in the late 50’s and early 60’s, but in the history of European basketball against the name of our country there are other impressive moments.
In 1953, the host of EuroBasket was the USSR, with a total of 17 participants in the championship.
The Bulgarians won eight of their nine matches… and finished in ninth place after allowing their only loss in the group. Such is the system that, despite their excellent performance, ours find themselves at the wrong end of the carousel, which eliminated them from the fight for the prize.
Two years later we are again among the leading teams in Europe and finish fourth in Budapest.
In fact, from 1955 to 1967, Bulgarian basketball players never fell below fifth place at the European Championships. And for these 12 years seven championships have been held!
In 1957 came the biggest success of our country so far – silver at EuroBasket, hosted by Sofia.
The USSR breaks the Bulgarians in front of the full stands of the national stadium “Vasil Levski”. Unofficially, on this day the arena gathered more than 50 thousand spectators. Some eyewitnesses say there are more. After our team leads with 4 points at the break, in the second half the guests scored 41 points, twice as many as in the first half. So we fall behind with 57:60.
The coach of the national team then was Ludmil Katerinski, who will then lead Bulgaria to another European, World and Olympic Games, and the team includes famous figures such as Iliya Mirchev, Viktor Radev, Georgi Panov, Lyubomir Panov, Konstantin Totev… In those At times, our club basketball is also at a high level, as Academic (Sofia) plays two consecutive finals for KESH, which it lost to the Latvian Riga.
“Many people still believe that we were forced not to win both in the final of the European Championship and in the final of the club championship against ASK Riga. I declare with all my dignity that this is not true.
Nobody told us we had to fall. If we could, we would beat them, but we didn’t have enough. “ tells years later one of our famous players – Georgi Panov, who is our only basketball player, played in three Olympics!
Four years after the lost final at the national stadium in Sofia, where 42,000 spectators are officially present, world record at the time, the team retained part of its core and reached bronze. In the semifinals in Belgrade in 1961, the USSR stopped us again. The consolation is a victory over France in the small final, and then the selector is another legend – Vesselin Temkov.
In 1967 we reached the semifinals in Helsinki, but in the end we remained fourth in Europe, and until 1979 we did not leave the top ten on the continent. In 1973 and 1975 we finished fifth and sixth, respectively, and Atanas Golomeev is invariably the top scorer of these two European championships, with 156 and 160 points, respectively.
The Dragon, who years later will be included in FIBA’s list of the 50 best players in the history of European basketball, was selected in the ideal team of four consecutive European – 1971, 1973, 1975 and 1977.
Eleventh place in 1979 was followed by two consecutive unsuccessful attempts to qualify and so Bulgaria does not play at EuroBasket after almost 30 years of permanent presence.
In the 80’s we have two participations, which end with the last and penultimate place, respectively, but we must specify – then at the European only play the eight best teams on the continent. Bulgaria is also among them.
And our players are good in those years – Yordan Kolev, Iliya Evtimov, Sasho Vezenkov, Ivan Tsenov, Georgi Mladenov, Tsvetan Antov, Georgi Glushkov, Ventzi Slavov… It just so happens that against them are super teams like the USSR, Yugoslavia, Greece , Italy … Only the best.
The Soviet team won 12 championships from 1960 to 1990, and the Yugoslavs won five titles. Only Italy and Greece break this dominance of the two non-existent sports forces with one triumph each.
And how strong they are worldwide in the period is proved by the fact that the two teams – the USSR and Yugoslavia, took three gold, five silver and four bronze medals at the eight Summer Olympics for the three decades in question. Here we are among such teams at the European Championships in the 60s, 70s and 80s.
In the next decade, which marked the beginning of the transition in our country, our basketball players reached two more rankings – in 1991 and 1993, but remained in last place in both cases, respectively – eighth and sixteenth. And we have to wait 12 years to return to the spotlight of EuroBasket 2005, when the coach is again Rosen Barchovski, who ranks our country now.
Barchovski, whose father Tsvyatko also led Bulgaria to EuroBasket, is involved in three of the last four lions’ rankings for the continental championship. 2005, 2011 and 2022. In 2009 the Israeli legend Pini Gershon is in charge, and in our last two participations in the team are some of the best players in our modern history – Filip Videnov, Todor Stoykov, twins Kaloyan and Deyan Ivanovi …
Even today the team includes Chavdar Kostov, who played in 2009 and 2011, when he was still a young hope, and now he is in the role of a veteran.
In all three cases we remain in the back of the rankings.
But this in no way changes the facts that are eloquent – Bulgaria has its own tradition in European basketball, and next year will return to where it has been for years. And in a deadly competition.
#Bulgaria #big #stage #Europe #History #shows #place