SAIF, A PAKISTANI IMMIGRANT STARTED TO TRAIN DISABLED CHILDREN IN BULGARIA IN 2012. NOW THERE IS A WHOLE NETWORK OF TABLE CRICKET TRAININGS IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY AND A TOURNAMENT.
The Pakistani Saif Ur Rehman came to Bulgaria in 1994, he owns a Pakistani restaurant. As a lot of Pakistanis, he has a passion for cricket. He is a cricket player, and he introduced cricket in Bulgaria. In 1999, he registered the very first cricket club in Bulgaria, and in 2004, when the Bulgarian Cricket Federation was founded, Saif became the captain and coach of the Bulgarian national team. He is the holder of a second-degree Diploma in Coaching awarded by the International Cricket Federation. There are another 7-8 persons holding such qualification in Europe, and only 3-4 persons in Eastern Europe.
In Pakistan Saif used to play with other disabled children since he was a small boy, and in Bulgaria, he found out that disabled children did not have many possibilities for social life and sports. For that reason in 2012, Saif brought the modified version of cricket to Bulgaria – table cricket, extremely suitable for children with special needs. Since 2012, Saif has been training many parents, physicians, teachers, rehabilitators, and psychologists from different cities and towns in the country, and children achieve remarkable results and improve their fine motor skills, concentration, coordination, teamwork, psychological and emotional condition, and integrate with other children. At the moment there are over 300 children training with Saif and taking part in annual national tournaments and festivals.
When we interviewed Saif, he didn’t talk about himself, or his work. He was talking about the parents of disabled children, humane approach, and solidarity.
In my opinion until healthy people realize that they need those people with disabilities, things would never change for the better.
The contrary is pretty clear – people with disabilities need the rest. Every living creature is connected to other living creatures, isn’t it?
The people with disabilities in Bulgaria are approximately 600 000. Out of them approximately 60 000 are children. The state provides scanty resources for them and their families. Children and adults with severe disabilities have a limited choice of sports, especially when it comes to team sports.
As at the moment, over 300 persons aged 4-40 years train table cricket in Bulgaria with Saif. They suffer from various physical or mental disabilities and syndromes, such as: children cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, Down syndrome, mental retardation, blindness…
All physicians, teachers, rehabilitators and psychologists of children and adults share the same opinion that the adapted version of table cricket significantly helps them improve their
- Fine motor skills
- Psychological and emotional condition
- Integration with other children – this process also includes their families
Every year Saif and friends organize two tournaments in Bulgaria – one in Sofia and one in Plovdiv, as well as one sports festival in Sofia with the participation of the children and their families and friends, as well as the wide public. Up to the moment (May 2017), there have been 10 national tournaments. 10-12 clubs take regular participation in the national tournaments. Children play in groups, a semifinal and a final. A champion is awarded and teams holding the second and third places, for which players are given cups and medals. All tournament and festival referees are volunteers.
1 cricket match for children with disabilities lasts about 30 minutes.
1 cricket match for adults lasts about 7-8 hours.
My parents have brought me up and I’ve never considered people with disabilities different. Never! I remember a classmate of mine who was suffering from paralysis and walking was a true challenge for him. We used to run together with him and I used to tell him: “Run, run, you are all the time behind.” He used to answer me: “Come on, next time I will beat you”. We also used to play cricket together. I also had a cousin of mine suffering from mental retardation and a physical disability. She used to stay indoors all the time. Her face was scary, especially to those who were not used to looking at her. I vaguely remember the first time we went to the village where she lived and my mother explaining to me about the girl I was about to meet, trying to prepare me for the meeting. When we arrived, I saw that she was different but I did not get scared and I played a lot with her. I will also never forget the look in her mother’s eyes – those calm eyes … In Pakistan we think of people with disabilities otherwise. We respect them. We do not isolate them and we help them a lot. Fathers do not walk away when having a child like this. In Bulgaria I’ve seen many mothers abandoned by their husbands, and in our country all relatives are always a lot and everyone always tries to help. Quote from an interview with Saif on Purvite7.bg http://purvite7.bg/istorii-ot-milostiviya-mech/
interview: BISTRA IVANOVA, NADEZHDA PETROVA sound production: VLADIMIR RADINOVIĆ story editor, video production, information design: HUNOR KIRÁLY