Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Wrestling: A Fight for an Honest Living in Corrupt Times

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Wrestling: A Fight for an Honest Living in Corrupt Times

Article excerpt

While practicing takedown flips with a dummy, Hristo Stoilov's phone rang. The wrestler, covered in sweat and wearing tights, listened for a minute, shook his head, then returned to grappling.

Later, Mr. Stoilov explained the call was from a friend offering him "easy" money to rough up a debtor.

Although Stoilov's thick muscles and steely presence might allow him to quickly earn the $200 fee for intimidating a debtor into paying, he says this is no way to live, not even if a single "visit" yields as much as he earns in two weeks as a personal trainer.

"I want to live a quiet life," Stoilov says.

Wrestling, the national sport, once generated jobs, entertainment, and considerable national pride here during international tournaments. During communist times, with state- controlled dreck on television, most towns held Saturday night matches. And the state paid wages to some 50,000 wrestlers and coaches - in a country of only 8 million.

The postcommunist economic crisis left thousands of wrestlers unemployed, says Emil Budinov, a former national wrestling champion and now a coach. …

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