A Burgau Story – As told by Andy Robinson to Kevin Hughes

40 years ago an Algarve institution opened its doors for the first time … and a dynasty was born.

The Robinson family, headed by Andy and Judy, have been providing sports facilities for generations of people – locals, expats and holidaymakers – for four decades.

The facilities, on Estrada Principal Burgau on the outskirts of the picturesque fishing village, have expanded and changed over the years. Squash was a major attraction for more than 20 years, but the courts now house a state-of-the-art studio and a hugely popular gym, which has expanded onto the first floor viewing area. Tennis is still thriving five days a week; however, two padel courts plus a singles/tuition court now provide a major attraction.  

Forty years on, the business continues to thrive, with three generations of the Robinson dynasty now in residence and continuing to provide an amazing service.

When I first came to Burgau in 1979, I was 31, and I was lost. I came here on holiday and that holiday changed my life. I had been a PE teacher, loving my job and giving everything to the kids at school. 

I had become disillusioned by the non-competitive sports initiative that had infected British schools. Getting out of teaching broke my heart.  My eyes saw sport choking in the vacuum brought by politicians.

With a lump in my throat and knowing I would miss the school kids, I walked the plank and started working for Adidas. Very quickly, I found out that being a salesman wasn’t for me. 

Fortune found me on the day I came to Burgau when I met a man called David Miller. On holiday with my wife Judy, we met the managing director of Beach Villas, a leading tour operator in Burgau. Out of the blue, David asked me what I was doing here and what I did for a living. I told him, “I’m doing nothing much now, but one day, I would like to build a sports centre right here in Burgau.” 

He asked me, “What sort of sports centre?” Having never really thought about the details, I winged it and said “Oh squash, tennis, a pool, a bar … you know the sort of thing.” 

To my surprise, he asked me to come and talk further with him as soon as I was back in England. I walked into that meeting as an ex-teacher and walked out as a holiday rep. Judy had a job, too. He and Beach Villas gave Judy and me a new chance in life. We took that chance, and we are still here. 

We arrived in Burgau with nothing more than our clothes. Leaving behind a great circle of friends, we knew that we were turning a new page. We just got on with it and began what was to be an amazing life here.

In those days Burgau only had two cobbled roads that led down to the beach. However, Burgau did boast a swimming pool and a disco called The Mad Hatters, which later came to be called Majeks. In need of an extra income, Judy and I used to sing in bars around the village. At that time, the Casa Grande was a social hub, and we would go along and quite literally sing for our supper.

In the back of my mind was a sports centre, but it was an uphill struggle to make it happen. Burgau had a communist council and I was considered a capitalist. I did have a moustache I suppose, but I also had a debt. I had borrowed £15,000 on 33% interest and that had to be paid back within six months of the centre opening. Some capitalist!  

The locals called our land “the field of rocks”, and, in 1983, we would come and watch some of those rocks being blasted out. Slowly, the walls of our sports centre began to rise from the ground.

It was on May Day, 1984 that the Burgau Sports Centre opened for the first time. Outside, it shone like a big white temple and inside it was immaculate. Tina, our beloved cleaner, kept it that way every day.

Judy and I looked at each other. We had done it. But we didn’t have that much time to look at each other or the building. We were looking elsewhere and our eyes settled mostly on little Dan, our baby son, born a month before.

We tried to get permission for 20 houses. People living in those houses would have been using the sports centre now but, before it came to fruition, the environment department declared all our land to be green belt. They would not let us build anything. So, there were disappointments and, yes, I have had doubts over the years. Who doesn’t? 

We have been living on a knife edge for 40 years, nearly bankrupt four or five times, and often hiding up the bungalow when someone comes looking for a bill to be paid. Burgau Sports Centre has lost my father-in-law Tom, my father Bill and my mother Barbara. All three were instrumental in getting the venture off the ground. It began as a hand-to-mouth project, and it still is.
I have never regretted coming to Burgau. It has been home to us, a place where I have proudly watched our sons Sam, Ben and Dan grow from boys into young men. Dan and Sam now have families of their own.

I would say to the future newcomers that Burgau has been my friend. I would tell them to go up and hug my friend. 

In the meantime, drop by and have a coffee.



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