Who’s the Fat White Bloke at the back?
That’s me in the blue shirt. The rest of the extremely fit looking fellas are the squad training for the Cuban National Rugby team.
Gifts of a few balls, kicking tees, ground markers and mouth guards from Rushmans Cuba is pretty much all the equipment or funding they are getting at the moment. Rushmans Cuba also arranged for Hector Villar, to make a TV program with them that aired on National TV. The spirit is high though as they go through their paces on the rock hard ground at the Centre Desportivos on Havana.
Rugby in Cuba — who would have thought it, yet they are loosely organised into regional teams and play most weeks. Cuba with 11.2m people is not yet a hotbed of Rugby but there is growing interest. Whilst I watch various sporting codes training in the vast playing fields besides Cuba’s National Sports Centre it seems somewhat strange that by far the most played sport in this space is Football. On the days I visit it outnumbers Baseball the National Sport by ten to one. But Rugby? Yes it is being played and in increasing numbers.
Chuckin Chao, the ringmaster and glue for these lads and leader of everything Rugby in Cuba is hopeful that they will become a force to be reckoned with first in the Caribbean and then regionally. Cuba currently officially views Rugby as a ‘recreation’ rather than a sport (obviously the powers that be haven’t been scrumming down with the team above!) but Chuckin is hopeful that the status will be reviewed with Rugby’s inclusion into the Olympic family for the Rio games in a few weeks time.
We won’t be seeing Cuba’s national rugby team in major competitions quite yet, but don’t write them off. They are surprisingly good, train hard and with a bit of help could develop very quickly.