RUGBY DEVELOPMENT KICK-STARTED IN RURAL URUGUAY
Following a request of Mrs Marianne Birkholtz Almagro, the wife of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay Dr Luis Almagro, the Embassy facilitated the support of the Uruguayan Rugby Union (URU) to promote rugby, also as a development tool, at a group of small and less privileged rural schools in Uruguay in the Province of Canelones. The Almagro family lives on a small farm in the area and two of their children attend rural school 118 that hosted the event.
Mrs Birholtz Almagro is a South African by birth and approached the Embassy, also in her capacity as President of the local Community Management Committee. The Embassy maintains close ties with URU and they responded enthusiastically, since it is in line with their rugby development programme.
A very successful rugby day was hosted at rural school 118 on 14 April 2010, with the participation of 4 neighbouring rural schools, involving more than 60 children. Besides the wife of the Minister, the Mayor, Directors and teachers from five rural schools, regional school authorities and parents, the event was also attended by the President and Vice President and Development Officers of URU, the national rugby coach and several players of the national under 20 rugby team.
The children started the day with some cultural dances as a token of appreciation, followed by short statements by the President of URU Gustavo Zerbini, Ambassador Dawie Jacobs, Charge D’Affaires and the Mayor of the community. Gustavo made special mention of the close and longstanding rugby ties between South Africa and Uruguay. All three speakers referred to the values taught through sport and specifically through a team sport such as rugby. Gustavo is well known locally, being one of the survivors of the rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes mountains in 1972.
This was followed by a “rugby clinic” offered by the Development Officers of URU and the URU national coach. The clinic took place on a previously neglected soccer field right next to school 118 that was cleared and prepared for the event by the local community, with the help of a local farmer. The wife of the Minster specifically requested that the South African flag also be hoisted next to the field together with the Uruguayan flag. She was also proudly wearing her Springbok rugby shirt at the event.
The children, boys and girls, enthusiastically participated in the clinic and were taught the basics of rugby, such as handling the ball, line-outs, running with the ball and tackling. This was followed by the “third-half”, a special characteristic of rugby, where all the “players” socialized and were treated to snacks and fruit juice provided by URU through their sponsors. Rugby balls were donated by URU to all participating schools.
All stakeholders agreed that this “rugby clinic” was a very successful start to the rugby development programme at these rural schools and talks took place during and after the event on how to take it forward. A local rugby coach living near the schools, agreed with URU to become involved at the schools and a physical trainer at school 118 will start with a rugby coaching course at URU next month in order to play her part in future.
SA Embassy, Montevideo, Uruguay