By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – To round off a busy year and mark the beginning of a new one, Rio Rugby Club will be hosting a réveillon party the Tiki Hostel in the Cantagalo favela community in Ipanema on December 31st. Everyone is welcome and proceeds from the night will go towards the club’s social projects.
Members of Rio Rugby Club helped build the hostel which sits at the top of Cantagalo. It has a 270 degree view of Rio, making it the ideal spot to watch the official firework display that is let off from Copacabana, as well as the sunrise the following morning. There will be a full bar, feijoada and DJs all night long.
Rio Rugby Club, one of the state’s oldest, has this year been focusing on its social activities as well its sporting ones. “We wanted to change the culture within the rugby community,” explains club president, Justin Thornycroft.
“Obviously there is a lot of rivalry and we wanted extend what happens on the pitch to what happens off it, so how you act in life, your values, family life.”
The club puts on five main events throughout the year which aim to bring players and supporters from all clubs in the area together. The Rio Beach Rugby competition, which next year will be held on January 23rd – 24th, is the first in the calendar, followed by St Patrick’s Day, Festa Junina in June, an annual poke night and an end-of-year celebration, which in 2015 was a boat trip on Guanabara Bay for 140 people.
On the pitch the club is benefitting from the expertise of Ubaldo Rivero, an Argentinean coach who has been brought over from São Paulo. Off the pitch he has been bringing a coherent rugby philosophy to all the club’s activities as well as becoming involved in running the club’s social projects.
Having once been mostly comprised of gringo, or foreigner, members, these days the club is 95 percent Brazilian and it works closely with residents from both Cantagalo and Rocinha communities. Within the club there are XV and rugby sevens teams, as well as beach and tag rugby teams and women’s and juvenile groups too.
The game was first played in Rio de Janeiro state across the bay at Niteroi Cricket Club in the beginning of the Seventies. In 1974, Rio Rugby Club was formed and moved to Rio city. Now there are around sixteen rugby clubs in Rio de Janeiro with hundreds of members.
In 2016 rugby will return to the Olympic Games, which will be held in Rio, after a 92-year hiatus. It will be played in the form of rugby sevens, a shortened and quicker version of the original XV format.
“The Olympics has really increased visibility of the sport,” says Thornycroft. “It has made the government look up and ask ‘Who are our team?’ Now there is a rugby club in every Brazilian state. There’s a lot of talent in this country, and players are really enthusiastic, even emotional, about the sport.”
Entrance to the Rio Rugby Club New Year’s Eve party is R$20. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.