rugbyTom and I had a treat this weekend; we went to see a rugby tournament at SPAC, the Sao Paulo Athletic Club, where 20 teams of men, plus women’s teams and the under-19 teams vied for the Rugby Sevens tournament title.

It was a gorgeous spring day in Sao Paulo, and the tournament proceeded under blue skies with cotton-candy clouds.

Some of the teams were quite serious about the tournament, whereas others were just there to have fun playing rugby for pure love of the game. Our friend Milena told us about the tournament, remembering that Tom had said we enjoy watching rugby. Her boyfriend Rafa had gotten a team together for the tournament. Rafa’s team were the Tigres, whose players were small in stature compared to the serious team, but their hearts were ferocious. O Portuga, one of the smallest fellas, was the hooker on the team, but that didn’t stop him from grabbing hold of the bigger opponents and riding them to the ground under the onslaught of helping players. He crawled out from the bottom of the heap with a huge grin on his face and a double-thumbs-up! All for the love of the game.

The Tigres...small but with ferocious hearts.
The Tigres…small but with ferocious hearts.
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O Portuga, second from the right, and Rafa, the team captin.

The Tigres were just there for the fun of playing, as were several of the “older” teams, such as Keep Walking, gents with graying or white hair who played on teams of 10 instead of the usual 7 in the tournament, an acknowledgement that time takes its toll on the bodies of these older players, necessitating adjustments in the rules.

olderThat didn’t mean these men were any less competitive. We cringed as they bruised and battered each other in their battle for the ovoid ball on the ground. Wiliness was apparent in their play, rather than the foolhardy body-bruising of the younger players. What a blast to watch them!

IMG_0136There were women’s teams as well, including the women of the Keep Walking, whose uniforms featured black garters silk-screened on the fuchsia shorts. I suppose that was to remind onlookers that they were still women, even when they were hefting one another off the ground and pile-driving each other.

IMG_5335I found myself rooting for a second team besides the Tigres…Rio Rugby. Mostly because I love saying their name in Portuguese: Hee-oo Hug-bee. And I have to admit, some of them were pretty gorgeous.

Yes, I'm shameless. But they were gorgeous and adorable!
Yes, I’m shameless. But the Rio Rugby fellas were gorgeous and adorable!

At the tournament, we met Fabrizio, one of two organizers of Rugby para Todos, an organization that is taking the game to the favelas of Sao Paulo and Rio, to give the kids there another reason to stay off the streets. Rugby doesn’t yet offer even a remote possibility of living, not like futbol (soccer), but Steve Restaino, an American who is helping to build the organization, says it teaches the kids teamwork and discipline, and keeps them off the streets, away from drugs and crime.

Steve (left) and Fabrizio, working together on Rugby para Todos.
Steve (left) and Fabrizio, working together on Rugby para Todos.

Rugby para Todos is helping to build liaisons with colleges and universities in the United States, England, Ireland, and Scotland, hoping to open some doors for the kids who face staggering obstacles to success in schooling and opportunities. The first step is to help the kids to learn English, which will help open opportunities in any walk of life.

Speaking to Fabrizio, I again wished I had a foundation into which I could dip to provide financial help for this organization. I wish them well, as I wish anyone well who focuses on the youth and opening doors for them. Wishing you success, Fabrizio!

(To learn more about Rugby para Todos, visit www.rugbyparatodos.org.br)

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