By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With Brazil’s national football (soccer) season on its annual hiatus after a thrilling end to the season in December, some other sports in Rio have a chance to take center stage. For one, Rio’s beach rugby tournament is set to get underway on Leme Beach, in Copacabana, this January 15th and 16th.
Rio Rugby Club will be hosting the event comprised of twenty teams, including at least four from neighboring and rival state São Paulo. The tournament is set to get underway at 10AM on both the Saturday and the Sunday.
Last year, Rio took the title after seeing off an Argentine side in the final. The victory was even sweeter after the semi-final success against arch-rivals Niterói, who had won the two previous tournaments.
In the making for the best part of 50 years, Rio Rugby has recently become a registered club, which has helped immensely in attracting more long term players to the sport. The squad is made up of approximately 60 percent Brazilians and 40 percent foreigners, from; Ireland, England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, U.S., Argentina, Zimbabwe, Chile, France and Holland are all represented.
However, to help the sport take the next step in Rio, finding sponsorship money is pivotal. The club is accepting additional sponsors still for the upcoming tournament, as well as looking for year round support.
Conor Brady, one of the players of the club explains “Rio Rugby has the right foundations to be one of the top clubs in Brazil, but currently lacks the resources to be there: resources such as basic changing facilities; proper equipment for players; food, travel and accommodation for tours (Brazil is bloody big!!)”
With the help of additional sponsorship, the club is also hoping to support more adolescents in underprivileged areas, start offering English language classes for some of the team, as well as planning to initiate an official social rugby program in the next year.
The club is now attracting Brazilians from across the social spectrum as the popularity of the sport continues to grow in Rio. Adolescents from area favelas, university students and multinational professionals have all been getting involved, including players from Cantagalo, one of whom went on to represent the Brazilian Under-19 National team, a proud achievement for the club.
Brady goes on to say, “Eventually we would like to have the resources to start a 7s competition that could appear on the international 7s circuit, before Rio hosts the first official Olympics Rugby 7s competition in 2016.”
Rugby 7s (also known as seven-a-side, is a variant of rugby in which teams are made up of seven players, instead of the usual 15, with shorter matches) will be an official sport for the first time in Rio at the 2016 Games.
In addition to the tournament in January, the club hosts a game of ‘touch rugby’ every Wednesday evening at Post 8 on Ipanema beach, followed by drinks. As Brady explains, “There is no signing up, everyone is welcome, men, women, children, all levels play together, we try and balance the teams if there are new people and we explain the rules as we go along.”
Training sessions are held on Saturdays as well and for more information see the club’s website. Anyone interested in sponsoring Rio Rugby Club or the beach competition can email firstname.lastname@example.org.