In yet another initiative to promote rugby at the grassroot level, UAE Rugby has come up with a pilot project to take the game to the Sharjah Youth Centres in Sharjah.
The project is part of the Princess Haya initiative and the HSBC Player Pathway Prgramme which encourages Emiratis boys to take up the sport.
“The intention is to grow the game among Emiratis and this is our first ground breaking move in Sharjah,” said Ian Bremner, chief executive of UAE Rugby Association.
“We have been pretty successful in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain and we got an opportunity to work through youth centres in Sharjah which not only has excellent facilities but great staff and enthusiastic kids. They saw the work being done in Dubai and approached us to bring it here to Sharjah,” he added.
The project began at the start of this month at three centres – Sharjah Wasit Centre, Khor Fakkan and Kalba – which have evoked positive responses running into the second week.
“We are just into the second week and they are already talking about setting up a league next year.
“It’s wonderful to see their enthusiasm and heart warming. A lot of credit to the development officers who have been working continuously and ensuring that the boys get to learn the sport,” Bremner said.
The sessions are being held from 5pm to 6pm in which the boys have been divided into two age groups of 12 to 14 and 15 to 18.
“We are running three big programmes before the Ramadan and as soon as it finishes we will get these guys on board and work on the technical development of the game,” he noted.
“The key is the enthusiasm. It takes a long time to develop a rugby player but if you have enthusiasm from the guys and the staff we can’t ask for more,” he added.
Tamer Ezzaldin, Supervisor for Youth Sports Centre, said he was happy with the way the things have unfolded so far. “We have began this in just three youth centres to check the response and hopefully after Ramadan we will further explore the possibility of extending it to other youth centres.”
“This is a very new game for the boys and will take time for them to understand. But so far they have been very optimistic and there is a willingness to learn the new sport,” he added.
Ezzaldin also said the youth centre focuses mainly on fitness and this sport further added to the cause. “We have different activities running in youth centres. We focus a lot of fitness providing them with all facilities and ensure the kids are fit and in shape.
“We have a total of eight youth centres and after Ramadan we will expand it and then also plan a tournament between the centres in December.”
Ben Van Rooyan, Rugby Development officer for Dubai and Eastern Region, who was impressed with the interest among the kids, said: “We have the same numbers from the first week that means the kids are enjoying it.
“We have a good strength and if things go well we should have a good pool of Emirati players in the near future,” he added noting the project was certain to go to the next level. “This will go to a new level. They are planning a tournament which is a good way to take it forward. The staff involved is keen to learn and we are training Arabic speaking coaches who can communicate better with the kids.”