Gabon and its new union – While the big African nations are slowly but surely settling in on the international rugby stage scene, the smaller ones are not outdone !
Gabon, the African western country tries to find its place in the oval ball world. To this effect on January 27th, 2016, after having been represented for a long time by an association, the Gabonese rugby was officially recognized as a national union. Pierre Duro, president of this union fought for many years for the support of his ministry. Today, the Secretary Blaise Louembé is ready to push Gabonese rugby “I expect that you will create narrow links between clubs, provincial leagues through a good coordination of their activities. You have to take steps to weave useful relations with the rugby unions of the other countries affiliated to Rugby Africa, and to organize national and international competitions and sporting events”.
An elective General assembly will formalize the creation of the union with the election of its very first board. However, the rugby players didn’t wait for it to kick-off their activities! A tournament was launched : the Léon Folquet Tournament, gathering hundreds of players. The competition was won by the ERCO team !
To date, Gabon counts about ten clubs, that is 330 senior members and 40 juniors constituting a solid base to build the future. Very aware that the children are the future of this sport, the ambition of the union is to reach out to rugby schools with the intention is to buy equipment to allow children to play easily and to welcome some specialists ready to train educators. Afterwards, it will be important to train the referees to empower them so they can practice at an international level and develop the local championships. The referees of today are for the most part the players of yesterday, thus it is necessary to make them discover rugby beyond the borders. The president of the union also has a long-term vision ; why not forming a Sevens national team to compete in the 2020 Olympics Qualifiers ?
For the moment, the union works with the managers’ personal funds, not much sponsoring, no grants. Nothing comes easy but the ambitious project comes a long way ! In 1979, Pierre Duro already confided to sports journalists that he “had a dream”. The Gabonese are physically built for rugby and therefore deserved a structured championship and a national team. 37 years ago, Pierre Duro was dreaming and today he turned his dreams into reality.
Photo credit : Mélaine Weber