Lowestoft darts player shares love of sport with European neighbours

Mention darts and most people think of a game played by overweight men in pubs, or in front of passionate crowds on television.

But one Lowestoft man is proving it can be a source of lasting friendship – and a way to improve international relations.

For the last 35 years John Burgess has been visiting Belgium every year to share his love of the arrows and the oche.

Mr Burgess, 71, arranges annual visits by Lowestoft's Territorial Army Volunteer Reserves dart team to a pub in Bruges, and because of the friendly matches, a large number of Belgians have discovered an interest in the sport.

And on Wednesday, Mr Burgess's European friends tuned in to cheer on Lowestoft darts player Peter 'Snakebite' Wright as he played in the third round of the Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship.

The Belgians keenly watched Wright's use of vogelpiks (darts) as he attempted to hit a bolle (bull's eye) – but sadly he lost four sets to one to world champion Phil Taylor.

'Snakebite', who is ranked 39th in the world, and Mr Burgess both play in the Lake Lothing pub, where the Territorial Army team meets once a week to compete.

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Mr Burgess, from Lulworth Park, who served in Aden with the Territorial Army, said: 'When you go in a Belgian pub you get a good mixture of people there and there are a lot of good darts players.

'Over the years more and more of them have got interested in darts and Belgium has a few good professional darts players now.

'The only problem with playing in Belgian pubs is the strong lager.

'You can have four pints over here and it won't affect you but over there it will send us all to sleep.

'I know a lot of the people we know in Bruges were watching the darts championship and supporting Peter as he is from the same town as me.'

In June Mr Burgess, who says has only hit one 180 in 50 years of playing darts, was recognised for his role in forging strong links between Bruges and Lowestoft.

He was given a civic reception in his honour and was praised by the mayor of Bruges and a whole host of civic dignitaries.

The high profile event was reported in the local newspaper.

Malcolm Hood, 68, from Normandy Road, is a member of Territorial Army team.

Describing the rivalry between the Lowestoft and Bruges darts teams he said: 'It is quite serious at times.

'Even though it is only a friendly people are determined not to lose.'