By Frankie Deges
The inauguration of an artificial Rugby pitch in Apartadó, a city of 165,000 inhabitants in northern Colombia confirms the importance Rugby has in the social fabric in an area previously immersed with FARC rebel activity.
In a country that is steadily working its way out of a dark period, Rugby has been a catalyst and local and national governments have focused on the healing aspects of the game, supporting the Federación Colombiana de Rugby and their many programmes, including the IRB’s mass-participation programme Get Into Rugby.
This was underlined by Foreign Affairs Minister María Ángela Holguín when inaugurating the Estadio Municipal Santiago Santacruz Rambay in the company of local and provincial dignitaries, ambassadors and representatives of the Colombian Rugby Federation. With the FARC still active in the region, Rugby and sport in general are a deterrent against recruitment.
“Rugby is conceived not only as a sport but as an initiative for social inclusion thanks to the values it promotes; it gives the youth in the area an opportunity, optimism and hope,” said Minister Holguín.
The artificial field, fully approved by the International Rugby Board is the second in the country and it will have a huge impact in the city. “For CONSUR, it is a proud moment to inaugurate such a field in a country that is fast developing,” said Carlos Barbieri, CONSUR President and IRB Council Member.
Apartadó will host the CONSUR B Championship in September when the Colombian Toucans tackle Perú, Venezuela and Ecuador, in an event which will continue to promote the game in a region that has already seen in excess of 75 Rugby players, most from underprivileged backgrounds, travel to Rugby nations such as South Africa, France, New Zealand and Australia thanks to a sporting and cultural programme run by the Foreign Ministry.
“The inauguration of this Rugby pitch is not only about the sporting success but the social aspect which constitutes a study case that can be replicated all over the world,” explains Santiago Ramallo, IRB Regional Development Manager South America. “It will generate many opportunities in a region that is renowned for the quality of its sports people.”
Colombian Rugby’s steady growth, closing on 15,000 players is, according to Federación Colombiana de Rugby President Andrés Gómez, thanks to the efforts and contribution of many. “We are a very focused, fast-growing community with very positive support from national, regional and local governments. The inauguration of the artificial pitch is one of many projects that will continue to grow our sport,” he said.
The artificial turf pitch was tested and approved in accordance with IRB field test requirements as outlined in IRB Regulation 22. Meanwhile, Colombia is a great case study of the Get Into Rugby programme within the CONSUR region with more than 3,000 boys and girls involved in the programme around the country.
Indeed, that number continues to grow and there is a new opportunity in this area of Urabá where the Union expects to replay the success following the construction of an artificial turf pitch in Castilla in 2010.
This feature forms part of our Around The Regions series exploring the game beyond its traditional heartlands. Do you have an interesting story to tell about Rugby around the world? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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