THERE was only really one name on the lips of Bulgaria's young players as they welcomed their new team-mate Sylvester Jasper to international duty for the first time.

"They were all asking me 'have I met Berbatov?'" said the Colchester United loanee, after linking up with the country's under-21s.

With Dimitar Berbatov, the country's most famous footballing name in the last 20 years having shone at the top of the English game for the likes of Manchester United and Spurs, it was probably only natural that they should ask Jasper about the former striker, especially as one of the clubs he represented was Fulham - which just happens to be Jasper's parent club.

"Berbatov is an icon in Bulgaria, so everything he's done, I kind of know about," said Jasper.

"I haven't met him yet but it would be nice and he was a great footballer."

Jasper is now back at Colchester, having made his international debut for Bulgaria under-21s in their Euro U21 Championship qualifiers.

The 20-year-old attacker started and played 85 minutes in their 0-0 draw with visitors Moldova, on Tuesday.


It followed him making his international bow for Bulgaria under-21s last week when he featured for more than an hour in their 3-1 defeat to their Netherlands counterparts.

"It was very enjoyable," said Jasper, who has made 16 league and cup appearances for the U's this season since joining them on loan until January, from Championship club Fulham.

"It's a different environment and a different experience to football here at Colchester.

"You're playing with players from all over Europe and different styles of play but I really enjoyed it.

"Some of the lads are in Bulgaria but there are also quite a few who play abroad, like in Germany and around Europe.

"The quality was good and there are some talented players.

"When you see different kind of players and how they play, you learn things from that.

"Being in a different environment with different kind of coaching and a different way of playing, you can implement it in your own game and that can only benefit you.

"I feel like I represented Colchester and myself well, so I'm happy.

"Playing for your country is a proud moment.

"Playing at the Euros and the World Cup are two of my dreams, so hopefully I can do that."


So how does Jasper, who was born in South London, qualify to play for Bulgaria?

"My Mum is Bulgarian; she grew up there and lived there all her life and her parents as well," said the U's player.

"My Dad is Nigerian and I was born in England, so I have three countries to choose from!

"They (Bulgaria FA) found out and called me up and I had a conversation with the coach and everything went well.

"My Bulgarian is perfect - I can speak, read and write in Bulgarian!

"So talking and getting on with the lads wasn't a problem at all.

"I've got a lot of family in Bulgaria and they all managed to come to the game.

"It was very nice to see them, because I hadn't seen them for five or six years.

"It was great for them to come and see me play and I got to catch up with them, so it was beautiful.

"I used to go to Bulgaria every summer, so every time I go back there I'd go to some games with my family - my uncle and my grandparents there.

"I haven't been for the last five years or so so I haven't been quite so on top of it."


Jasper returned to Colchester's Florence Park training ground yesterday following his international experiences and is now preparing for their game at Stevenage tomorrow.

He scored in his last U's appearance against AFC Sudbury in the FA Cup and says he is feeling confident, ahead of the trip to the Lamex Stadium.

Jasper said: "I feel like I'm probably in one of my best patches of form, since I've been here.

"I feel like I'm playing more regularly which is a big thing and I'm playing well, affecting games and scoring goals.

"I want to keep doing that and I have to keep my head grounded and have tunnel vision.

"I just have to keep doing what I'm doing.

"The AFC Sudbury game was on TV so I know a lot of people would have been watching it.

"It was good to make a good first impression to a lot of people who maybe haven't seen me play.

"As long as I'm helping the team and the club do well, along with helping myself and my development, I'm happy."


Colchester will be looking to make it four games unbeaten when they take on managerless Stevenage tomorrow.

The U's won their last League Two game against Scunthorpe United nearly three weeks ago and Jasper is hoping they can build on that win.

He added: "We're confident, we're training very well so we're going there with the utmost confidence.

"We believe in our ability and hopefully we can show that to everyone, at the weekend.

"The last game I played in, we won and we're on a good run of form now, so we just need to keep it going.

"We know what we're good at and we know our little weaknesses so we've been working on those in training."