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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.

  • Born in Karachi
    Saif Ur Rehman was born in Karachi, the capital of the Pakistani province of Sindh. It is the most populous city in Pakistan, 4th most populous city proper in the world (after Shanghai, Beijing, and Delhi) and the 6th most populous metropolitan city in the world (population of 27,5 millions in 2016). Saif's father is security officer in the Pakistan Air Farce. He is the biggest brother of 2 sisters and 1 brother.
  • Starts playing cricket
    Cricket is a religion in Pakistan and one can hardly find a boy who doesn't dream of becoming a professional cricket player. Saif has been dreaming about this since he was in elementary school. However, his father didn't allow him to play so Saif trained secretly. What's more, Saif played barefoot on 50 degrees Celsius because his father used to hide his sport equipment to prevent him training. In 1985, Saif started playing very actively in a club.
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    Awarded best bowler
    Saif was awarded the best bowler at one of the tournament matches. Bowling, in cricket, is the action of propelling the ball toward the wicket defended by a batsman. Bowling the ball is distinguished from throwing the ball by a strictly specified biomechanical definition, which restricts the angle of extension of the elbow. There are different types of bowlers, from fast bowlers, whose primary weapon is pace, through swing and seam bowlers who try to make the ball deviate in its course through the air or when it bounces, to slow bowlers, who will attempt to deceive the batsmen with a variety of flight and spin. A spin bowler usually delivers the ball quite slowly and puts spin on the ball, causing it to turn at an angle while bouncing off the pitch.
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    Moves to Bulgaria
    Originally, Saif wanted to go to Denmark but he was only able to acquire a visa to Bulgaria. When he arrived in Sofia he liked it so much - the climate, nature, people, culture so he decided to stay and open his own trading company. "Maybe that was my destiny," he says.
  • 285371_10150262666031390_6542879_n
    Starts cricket in Bulgaria
    Saif started organizing informal cricket trainings and matches for Pakistani citizens, Indians, Englishmen and other cricket fans on a weekly basis. Soon he became the heart of the cricket in Bulgaria attracting
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    First Bulgarian cricket club
    Saif registered the first cricket club in Bulgaria and became its Chairman. Meanwhile, on the Island the England and Wales Cricket Board and Lord's Taverners presented the competitive version of the table cricket for children with disabilities at the competition Table Cricket World Cup.
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    Cricket federation founded
    The Bulgarian Cricket Federation was founded. The National team of cricket of Bulgaria was established and Saif become its captain and coach holding this position until 2012.
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    Best competitor award
    Saif was awarded the best competitor in the Bulgarian championship.
  • sm-table-cricket_England-and-Wales-Cricket-Board-copy
    Discovers table cricket
    Saif discovered table cricket and held the first training at the Medical Center for children with disabilities at the Students’ Campus in Sofia. Twice a week Saif held trainings for 4-5 children with the most severe disabilities. He started holding trainings at two more Centers for children in Sofia. Saif founded the United Cricket Club – Sofia and became its Chairman – the Club’s objective is to develop both men’s cricket and the adapted cricket for children and adults with physical or mental disabilities and for blind people. Each month Saif organizes a “tour” travelling to other towns – Plovdiv, Stara Zagora, Sliven and Panagyurishte, where he trains parents and therapeutics of children with disabilities to hold trainings themselves. All accessories necessary for the new sport are free and provided by the Club. The first table cricket festival in Bulgaria took place in Sofia.
  • Trainings for trainers
    Saif organized two table cricket trainings for coaches and referees.
  • The network starts growing
    Saif organized a 2-day training for coaches and referees ended with an exam and a certificate. The network was complemented by the town of Shumen, as well as by two more centers in Sofia.
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    The network expands
    The network was also complemented by the town of Asenovgrad. One young man suffering from children Cerebral palsy started training other children in the town of Gotse Delchev. Meanwhile, Saif and the United Cricket Club – Sofia were excluded from the Bulgarian Cricket Federation and lost their license. The sanction was imposed due to administrative irregularities.
  • Table hockey
    Saif invented himself a new type of sport intended for children and adults with disabilities – table hockey, an adaptation of grass hockey. This sport is played on the same table just as cricket, but has different rules and dynamics. There are already two teams in Sofia training the new sport. It is expected the sport to be expanded throughout the whole country.
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
  • Concentration
  • Coordination
  • Teamwork
  • 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

interview: BISTRA IVANOVA, NADEZHDA PETROVA sound production: VLADIMIR RADINOVIĆ story editor, video production, information design: HUNOR KIRÁLY