Bulgarian Basketball Team Made it For European Championship
Bulgaria has qualified for the European Basketball Championship! News that surprised many... And it shouldn't - although this particular sport is not No1 in popularity in our country, it does not mean that our country does not have its traditions in it.
And these traditions have been built for decades.
Yes, our nationals had not reached EuroBasket since 2011, but after a decade-long pause they did so and next year they will again be among the best in Europe, Where they actually belong, in view of the history of the continental championships.
The Bulgarian national team is one of the ten participants of the first ever edition of the European Basketball Championship - in 1935 in Geneva. This championship was the 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 top ten there, in the first European, where it finishes in the eighth place. We get one win against Hungary.
This is just the beginning, because in the next almost a century-long period, our country will qualify for the Championship of the Old Continent 25 times (including our current ranking) out of 40 possible.
Of course, our greatest achievements are the two medals - silver and bronze, won in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but in the history of European basketball our country boasts other impressive wins.
In 1953 the host of EuroBasket was the USSR, with a total of 17 participants in the championship.
The Bulgarians have won eight out of their nine games... and finish ninth after allowing their only loss in the group. Such is the system: despite their excellent performance, ours find themselves at the wrong end of the hedge, eliminating them from the fight for a top ranking.
Two years later, we are again among Europe's leading teams, finishing fourth in Budapest.
In fact, from 1955 to 1967, Bulgarian basketball players never fell below fifth place at the European championship. And in those 12 years, seven championships have been held!
In 1957 came the biggest success of our country - silver at EuroBasket, hosted by Sofia.
The USSR smashed the Bulgarians in front of the full stands of the national stadium "Vasil Levski". Unofficially on that day, there were over 50,000 spectators. Some eyewitnesses say there were even more. After ours led by four points before the break, in the second half the guests scored 41 points, twice as many as in the first half. That's how we were defeated with 57:60.
In 1967 Bulgarians reached a semi-final in Helsinki, but in the end we remained fourth in Europe, and until 1979 we were invariably among the top ten on the continent. In 1973 and 1975 we finished fifth and sixth respectively, and Atanas Golomeev was always a top-scorer of these two European championships, with 156 and 160 points respectively.
After the eleventh place in 1979 followed two consecutive unsuccessful attempts to qualify and thus Bulgaria did not play EuroBasket after almost 30 years of constant presence.
In the 1980s we made two appearances that ended with last and last but one place respectively, but we need to clarify - then only the eight best teams on the continent play at European level. And Bulgaria is among them.
In the next decade that set the beginning to the transition in our country, our basketball players reached two more rankings - in 1991 and 1993, but remained in the last places in both cases, respectively - the eighth and sixteenth. And we had to wait 12 years to get back into the spotlight at EuroBasket 2005, when the coach again was Rosen Barchovski, who helped our country to qualify now.
Chavdar Kostov, who played in 2009 and 2011, when he was still a young hopeful, is still with the team, but now in the role of a veteran.
In all three cases, we remain at the bottom of the leaderboard.
But this in no way changes the facts that are eloquent - Bulgaria has its tradition in European basketball, and next year it will return to where it has been for years. Despite the murderous competition.
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