Monday, 9 July 2007

Illorin - Kwara state

By Hisham

We met at 7am prompt to get an early start for the long drive to Ilorin…we left at 4pm. We drove through the night, through villages and mud tracks. Will King sang a medley of songs to keep us entertained, and, some hours later, found ourselves in the Kwara hotel. Our hosts we extremely welcoming and we immediately felt that our stay in Ilorin would be some welcome R&R following the fast pace of Lagos. For the Playas; Rob, our illustrious coach, had other ideas. 3 hours of training followed by full game.

Crucially, this was also the point in the trip where Fred, the IRB coach we had along with us, and Andy Franco were to do some impressive work at grass roots level. Here’s how.

Ilorin has a rugby club. It doesn’t really have any opposition, but it has a club. 1 mens team and, surprisingly, 2 women’s teams (We saw there, as indeed we saw in Lagos later, that women square off against men’s teams quite frequently. Good luck to the rugby World when Nigeria’s women’s team emerges in earnest – they’ll be quite something. We were there to play them and to try and grow the sport by teaching school kids and qualifying coaches. To give you an idea of the passion for the game: we held an event which attracted 300 school children of all ages, we had to turn some away, with all the LNRFC lads spending the day schooling them in rugby.

When we arrived there was one official coach in Ilorin. When we left there were almost 50. The classes were hugely oversubscribed. We also raised funds to donate scrum machines, balls and pads to help them train. It’s very humbling to find such passion for rugby in a comparatively isolated area of Nigeria (I say isolated because viable opposition are very far away and expensive/difficult to reach), and with such little support or equipment.

The passion extended onto the pitch too. LNRFC played the ‘Dynamite’ club and were met with a ferocious, but ill-disciplined opposition. Being relentless, fearless and having absolutely no sense of self-preservation seem to be the foundations of rugby in Ilorin. Dynamite club literally would launch themselves into rucks horizontally, feet off the ground. We won, but it’s very easy to see them being daunting opposition in 2+ years time, maybe sooner.

We donated a cup, and some Virgin Nigeria sponsored shirts (They wore T-Shirts when they played us) and left in the hope that this could be a regular event. With almost 50 new coaches in Ilorin - Kwara state, some fantastic new equipment, and they passion they already have, we all are very keen to come back and see what they have developed in the next year.

1 comment:

Samantha said...

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