Play Touch see the World – Stefan and Anika’s excellent adventures

May 14, 2023 @ 5:15 UTC

The competition at the Asia Pacific Youth Touch Cup (APYTC) is heating up, and the event taking place at Brisbane's premier Touch facility at Whites Hill has attracted supporters from near and far, including the President of Bulgaria Touch, Stefan Doychev, and Anika Kuzova, who represented her nation at the 2022 European Cup. Join us as we follow Stefan and Anika's exciting 2023 Touch odyssey Down Under, where they are refining their skills and promoting the growth of Touch in Bulgaria and the Balkans!

The competition for the title of the Southern Hemisphere's best is fierce as the Asia Pacific Youth Touch Cup (APYTC) is currently underway, showcasing some of the world's most promising young talent. 

The event is taking place at Brisbane's impressive Touch facility at Whites Hill and has drawn players and supporters from several nations, including Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Niue, Fiji, Samoa, and Singapore. 

Notably, the event has also garnered the interest of two spectators from the Northern Hemisphere: Stefan Doychev, the President of Bulgaria Touch, and Anika Kuzova, who represented her nation at the 2022 European Cup.

Anika and Stefan embarked on their remarkable Touch odyssey from Sofia on December 31st, arriving in New Zealand on January 2nd before making their way to Australia in late March. 

Throughout their travels, they participated in touch competitions in Wellington, New Zealand and Queensland's Gold Coast, refining their skills and knowledge to promote the growth of Touch in Bulgaria and the surrounding Balkan countries.

Jamie O'Connor, Chief Executive of Touch Football Australia, who is co-hosting the APYTC alongside the Federation of International Touch, expressed his admiration for Anika and Stefan's commitment to learning from the world's best by travelling to Australia and New Zealand.

"It's fantastic to see Anika and Stefan's dedication to not only attending events like the APYTC but also signing up to play with local teams in our part of the world," Jamie remarked.

“We are doing whatever we can to assist Stefan and Anika grow the game in Bulgaria and look forward to seeing them in Nottingham next year for the Touch World Cup.”

Stefan shared that he and Anika are enjoying their time in the Antipodes, but our primary objective for the trip is to enhance our skills and expertise in Touch. “While it is a beautiful part of the world, our main focus is on combining our travel experience with learning and playing Touch, which is extremely valuable.”

The exposure to the game and playing at a higher level, as well as making new friends, is also valuable to them. “Being around Touch in New Zealand and Australia has given us many ideas on how to progress the game in Bulgaria.”

One of Stefan’s major goals for Bulgaria Touch is to make the game more accessible. “Allowing everyone to participate is essential, and we will consider four-aside games and smaller fields to increase participation.” 

He added that not having six players should not limit playing time.

Last August, Bulgaria Touch organized a four-aside competition for Under 14s that attracted many new players to the sport. Stefan wants to focus on the youth, especially after spending a day with Youth FIT Commission Chair Jassy Bhullar, who is also the Touch Coordinator at Runcorn State High School. 

According to Stefan Doychev, he and Anika were amazed to discover that Touch courses are now part of the curriculum at Runcorn. "I would have loved going to school every day," Stefan said with a broad smile, expressing his wish that he had had the same opportunity when he was younger.

Stefan and Anika have also been pleasantly surprised by the abundance of Touch opportunities available to them while in Australia and in New Zealand. 

In New Zealand, for example, they played for several teams four days a week at Kilbirnie Park, as well as Anderson Park in Wellington after being asked to bring their boots as there were teams short on players. “Some teams even heard about us and said just get the Bulgarians to fill in when they were short,” Anika said. 

Stefan also expressed gratitude to George Jahnke, the Wellington-based Community Coaching Coordinator for Touch New Zealand, who also found games for the couple and even conducted one-on-one drills with them. 

In addition, David Parker, President of Palm Beach Touch, found them games at Mallawa Sports Complex on The Queensland Gold when they arrived in Australia.

The couple are also extremely appreciative of the support from Peter Topp, Sport Development Director, FIT. “This trip wouldn’t have been as successful without the help of Peter. He looked after us and put us in touch with so many people in Australia and New Zealand. These contacts will be invaluable when we return to Bulgaria and start to put our plans in place.”

Stefan and Anika are already making plans to bring Touch to Bulgaria when they return home in August. "Our short-term goal is to get Touch into the schools back home and introduce weekly competitions like in Australia and New Zealand." 

Bulgaria Touch are eager to play more test matches against other European nations to aid in their development and that of their Balkan region. 

Despite their future plans, for now, Stefan and Anika are thoroughly enjoying their time in Australia. They were impressed by the Niue Mens 20s performance in their match against Fiji at the APYTC, with Stefan noting, “They played for each other with smiles on their faces.”

Anika added, “It’s a dream come true to come to Australia and New Zealand and being at the APYTC is just so impressive to see the amount of young talent on display. We’d love to come back again one day.”