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Sporting

Sedgemoor Unison v Altech in Vrsar, Croatia
One of the best ways of bringing people together we find is through sport and whilst we have tried to teach Czechs and Slovaks cricket we find that 99% of participants choose football as the catalyst. This has been a great success.

Every year we take a Bridgwater International team to a new country with a civic link and are joined by our Czech partners from Altech s.r.o. in Uherske Hradiste and play against a local team which helps to promote our regions as well as have a good time.

We have also taken youth football teams across, including Rhode Lane Wanders from the deprived Hamp estate - which required a lot of fund raising, to the Royal Household (workers) Football team (which didn't).

Bridgwater International play against French opponents in La Ciotat 2011

Our sporting links were pioneered by our current chairman Tim Mander whose work based Sedgemoor Unison team toured no less than 10 European partner countries with us before getting too old….


Hungary, Football and Goulash - so near and yet so far

Neville Chamberlain once described Czechoslovakia as a far away country of which we know little. Well Hungary is a bit further on still, cross the Danube and then take a hard step to the right. Hungary’s political solutions are all somewhere in the past. The Fidesz Government of Viktor Orban is blindly chasing some Thatcherite vision of unbridled capitalism as the country teeters on the brink of becoming another Greece and the second largest party Jobbik are an unlovable bunch of uniformed Empire revivalists whose symbol is a map of Hungary expanded to include chunks of neighbouring countries. And of course there’s elections coming up.

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HAT-TRICK HERO TURNS THE TABLES ON TOP CZECH OPPOSITION AS FOOTBALL COMES HOME TO BRIDGWATER

It was like a scene from a Biblical epic. Or at least one of the better performances by the great Leeds United squad of the 1960's. After 5 years of defeat after defeat at the hands of Czech Factory team Altech there were suddenly 'No more years of hurt' as Bridgwater International refound their form and smashed their twin town opponents into the hallowed (and slightly undulating) turf of Cranleigh Gardens. "Without a shadow of a doubt the performance was simply down to the genius of one man, centre forward Brian Smedley" said Centre forward Brian Smedley, after the game.

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BRIDGWATER ON DISPLAY AT THE U.H WINE FEST

In June 1992 Bridgwater and Uherske Hradiste became the first British and Czech towns to twin in the wake of the Velvet Revolution. Since then we've had 21 years of happy twinning together. And one of the annual highlights is the UH Wine festival.

This year there was no official Bridgwater delegation - just a few hardy travellers. However, the walls of the town hall that greeted them were adorned with massive full colour display boards of all 7 of UH's twin towns with the pride of place going to a Bridgwater display featuring photographs taken during the Spring and Summer by Czech exile in Somerset Jana Branecka.

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SANDINO SOCCER UPSET AS BRIDGWATER INTERNATIONAL SINK WITHOUT TRACE

Every year Bridgwater International enters a team or two for the Bristol-Nicaragua twinning festival the 'Sandino cup', which pits international(ish) football teams against one another in a sunny playing field in the grounds of Ashton Court. This year we entered two teams Bridgwater international and Bridgwater International Juniors (who were marginally younger).

The bad news started when it became apparent that self-declared 'star player' Councillor Smedley pronounced himself temporarily unfit and within several minutes was asleep on the touchlines.

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YET AGAIN FOOTBALL'S NOT COMING HOME

This years Sandino Football tournament in Bristol sponsored by the Nicaraguan Link Committee saw two Bridgwater International teams challenge the might of that city's Multinational communities in their bid for ball foot related excitement and to regain a trophy we've never yet won.

The Bridgwater International A team - wearing Leeds United white, captained by Steve 'quite a good footballer' Miles, and consisting of a full complement of sports teachers, athletes, running enthusiasts and people who knew how to play football easily won their group with five straight victories over tough opponents including Dynamo Horfield, Red Star Henleaze, Dukla Westbury on Trym, Partizan Bedminster and Chipping Sodbury Cub Scouts, therefore qualifying for the next round of the Sandino Cup. Sadly that's where their luck ran out as they met the Chilean Exiles 'los Hombres divertidos de Santiago' who thrashed them 1.0. Steve Miles said after the game "I'm 64 you know."

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LA CIOTAT-BRIDGWATER'S FIRST TWINNING RE-VISITED

In 1957 Bridgwater set up its first ever twinning. In the style of the day this was with a French town in order to strengthen the 'Entente Cordiale'. Whilst most Somerset towns picked up twin towns in neighbouring Normandy (just across the Channel), Bridgwater ended up with a veritable Mediterranean paradise in Provence, slightly along the coast from St.Tropez, Cannes and Nice. So what became of the little town of La Ciotat in the years since the Lumiere brothers first shot the motion picture classic 'Train arriving in a station' there in 1895 and what imperative spurred them on to make that even more famous link with Bridgwater in 1957??

Well, we didn't know at all, so we decided to take a couple of football teams down there and see what the place was like anyway.

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FOOTBALL TOUR LAUNCHES ITALIAN LINK

For the past two years Bridgwater travellers have met representatives from the Italian town of Priverno at the Uherske Hradiste wine festival. Priverno - a medieaval mountain town situated just south of Rome and midway between the Second World War battlefields of Anzio and Monte Cassino, is a twin town of Bridgwaters Czech twin town. If we can square the circle and make it a three-way link up the possibilities for European funding - not to mention an excellent new destination for twinners - the opportunities are endless.

A small Bridgwater delegation visited Priverno in mid October, flying from Bristol to Rome Ciampino by Easyjet. Staying at the beach hotel Oasa di Kufra in the specially built 'Fascist New Town' (Mussolinis idea back in the 20s) of Sabaudia, the group was joined by a coach party of thirty-eight Czechs travelling through the night from UH.

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