As Rugby counts down towards the readmission of the Game into the Olympic Games in 2016, more Brazilians than ever before are now playing, it has emerged.
And Confederação Brasileira de Rugby (CBRu) in partnership with the education department of the Rio 2016 organising committee, has been taking the sport into Rio de Janeiro's public schools. After being trained by the CBRu, the schools’ physical education teachers have been introducing Rugby to the children.
The results of this partnership have been immediate. Sixth grade students from Guimarães Rosa Municipal School, in the Magalhães Bastos neighbourhood, fell in love with the new sport and the federation hopes to reap benefits in the near future.
Meanwhile, the IRB is also playing its part, introducing its highly successful Get Into Rugby mass participation programme across the country in a bid to inspire the nation’s children to try, play and stay in the Game for the long-term. Astonishingly, no fewer than 10,000 new players in Brazil have been introduced to the Game since April of this year, nearly half of whom are female.
With more than 16,000 people already playing Rugby there, this latest numbers bump will come as a significant boost to the sport and will help to spark an interest in locals and inspire them to follow Rugby Sevens at Rio 2016.
'It was love at first sight'
“I didn’t know Rugby, I only played dodge ball at school,” said 12-year-old Marcelly Cristini. “I enjoyed doing something new. Rugby is a different sport. I had never seen anything quite like it. The ball can only be passed backwards or sideways, never forward. I still have a lot to learn but we already know how to play and it’s guaranteed fun!"
PE teacher Lucia Imbrosio was responsible for introducing the sport to the schoolchildren. While football and handball have traditionally been Brazilians’ favourite sports, now Rugby is making inroads.
“It was love at first sight,” she said. “The children really identify with the sport. It makes them happy. Matches aren’t quiet. On the contrary, they are very active. And at their age, running is what they enjoy the most. We started by providing lessons for sixth graders and we’ll gradually introduce them to students from other grades. Also, because they see other children playing, the kids get curious and want to participate as well.”
The school’s seventh graders can hardly wait to start practising the new sport. “It looks like a lot of fun. I found it quite interesting,” said Geovana Amorim, 13.
Isabeli Christine added: “Handball is my favourite sport. We have a very good team, we even won a competition between school teams. But it’s always good to learn how to play new sports.”
10,000 new players in Brazil since April
Fernando Portugal, captain of Brazil's national Rugby team, said that children learn as they play. According to him, new talents may arise and could even represent Brazil in international competitions, such as the Olympic Games.
“We’re looking for new talents for the national team and there’s nothing better than introducing the sport in Brazilian schools,” said Portugal. “I believe that we’ll reap the benefits of this effort.”
The Magalhães Bastos neighbourhood is close to Deodoro, the region that that will host the Rugby Sevens events in 2016.
Rio 2016's education department runs various activities, such as municipal schoolchildren’s visits to the National History Museum, which is currently hosting an interactive exhibition organised by the Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB).
Globally, up to 175,000 new participants have been introduced to Rugby during 2013 through the Get Into Rugby programme rolled out by the IRB, with one third of these new players being female. The programme is being delivered in about 1,000 locations across more than 50 Unions. The initiative will continue to expand into more territories next year.
Specifically in Brazil, the programme has attracted 10,094 participants in eight months with 4,562 of them being female.
This feature forms part of our Around The Regions series exploring the game beyond its traditional heartands. Do you have an interesting story to tell about rugby around the world? Let us know by emailing email@example.com.
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