Around 57 Somali players, from four London boroughs, turned out for the first ever Somali sevens festival held at Haringey Rhinos at the weekend.
With 55 of the players new to rugby, this was a real high point in relationship building which began in 2013 with Somali community leaders and the Darussalam Mosque Dar in Hounslow.
There was also a special guest in attendance in the shape of Abdul Kader Farrah, International Coordinator of Sports Affairs for the Somali Ministry of Sport who stopped off to watch on his way back from the Rio Olympics.
Preparations and training for the festival itself kicked off last March and watching the festival matches, together with a number of community leaders, Abdul Kader Farrah said he hoped the project would inspire more people to take up the sport.
“In Somalia everything is about football but now, having experienced this wonderful sport, I am very keen to increase the Somali population’s involvement,” said Farrah.
‘A FANTASTIC EVENT’
Rugby Development Officer Ty Sterry and Middlesex Community Rugby Coaches Jack Pattinson, Tom Redfern, Rupert Deane, Rory Greenslade-Jones and Martin Crossan, organised this first Somali Sevens festival involving Ealing, Camden Hammersmith & Fulham, and Haringey.
“The Somali community never ceases to exceed my expectations,” said Sterry. “This was a fantastic event with the values of the sport on display throughout. It was great to see friends and family supporting the teams and to have the rugby family at Haringey Rhinos being such gracious hosts.”
Watching were Somali community leaders from each of the boroughs and family and friends of the players, together with young players from Haringey Rhinos.
“The festival was a tremendous success and testament to hard work of volunteers and the players themselves,” said Sahel Ali, chairman of the Somali Rugby Development Group. “I very much hope that we can build on this for the future.”
With players keen to continue playing in regular festivals, and plans for the showcase Mo Farah Friendship Trophy to be held next June, the project’s incredible development is set to continue.
Want to get involved? Find your local rugby club at www.findrugby.com.