It is true to say that much of Bulgaria’s hockey activity revolves around Kaloyan Hristov.
The fervent hockey supporter founded Slavia 1921, a hockey club that regularly competes on the European hockey scene in the outdoor and indoor championships. Hristov, who has been involved in hockey for more than 20 years, says he was inspired to name the club Slavia 1921 after the football club that his family have followed for the past three generations.
The newly formed team got off to a good start. They won their opening match 4-2 – a moment of immense pride to Hristov – and so began the new club’s journey. Despite appearing in European Hockey competitions, Slavia 1921 is still searching for a home ground, so Hristov and the players have to be creative about how and where they train.
Hristov is also instrumental in bringing competitive hockey to Bulgaria. He organises numerous hockey tournaments at both national and continental level. In 2020, Slavia hosted the EuroHockey Club Challenge I Indoor competition for men, a huge feat for such a newly formed club.
Needless to say, while the events are in progress, Hristov is always to be found at the heart of running the events in a range of voluntary roles.
In his words, Hristov explains how he is helping develop hockey and competitive opportunities in Bulgaria.
“For the past two years I've been a zonal coordinator in the Bulgarian Hockey Federation. Thanks to the trust that the management of the federation has in me I managed to create a chain of tournaments called 'Remember the Heroes'. We manage to run three tournaments each year.
“One of the purposes we have is to have our youngest competitors to get acquainted with the history of the greatest Bulgarian heroes, every participant receives a small book/leaflet with brief history of the feats of our national heroes. Our aim with this is to achieve a kind of symbiosis between hockey and national history thus motivate the children for both sports and patriotism.”
For the past two years, the genial Bulgarian has also been a tournament director for a competition aimed at children up to the age of 12, ensuring the next generation develop a love of the sport.
And his dedication to sport extends beyond hockey. He was also heavily involved in the organisation of the European week of sport in Sofia in 2019.
Hristov is proud of Bulgaria’s hockey heritage. Although the sport fell off the public radar for a while in recent times, hockey has been played in Bulgaria since 1920.
“My will and focus are to get hockey back to where it belongs – among the major sports in my country,” says Hristov. “Unfortunately, Slavia 1921 does not yet have a link to children's school: one of the obstacles to that has been the COVID-19 pandemic. I really hope and will do my best to do that in 2021. We manage to gather volunteers and players for the field hockey with a lot of work and love dedicated to the sport.
“All my life I've been trying to be as useful as possible, the smile on the children's faces and the satisfaction of a job well done have always been the drivers for me.”