OPINION: We were all left with a bitter taste in the mouth when Rugby Africa revealed that the 2022 Rugby Africa Cup would be played in France.
Not Algeria, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya or Uganda, not even South Africa who would have served as a neutral venue, but France!
Surely, this is a great disservice to the African game, to the respective Rugby Unions and the people of Africa.
Granted, Covid-19 has proved to be quite the challenge but several countries across the continent have showcased their ability to host high profile events, some of a much bigger magnitude and with wider appeal than this competition.
But what does Rugby Africa do? It overlooks all this, and takes Africa’s qualifying event for the 2023 Rugby World Cup to France. We are all geography students, we all know that France is on the European continent, and by extension, is not a member of Rugby Africa (unless there’s something we don’t know).
Remember we said this is a great disservice to the African game. Want to know why? You know, because amidst the disruption that came about as a result of the pandemic, African countries have shown great resilience to keep going, to keep the game alive and to host and take part in competition whenever those calls have come through.
Do the honchos at Rugby Africa see this? No they don’t.
They opt to hamper the game’s return from a difficult period with one dumbfounding decision, a decision that they backed by stating in their press release on Monday 20th September 2021 that “the well-being, health and safety of the players remained at the heart of the priorities.”
They further go ahead to heap praises on France, saying, “with a long tradition of hosting Rugby Africa tournaments and activities, France and Rugby Africa are already in a close collaboration process…”
That French collaboration should have come in the form of capacity building in various technical aspects of the game including coaching and event management across the African continent.
That would be a better legacy project than hosting it in that country!
Anyway, these are flimsy, tone deaf justifications, reasons that smack of condescension, reasons that only serve to further alienate rugby from other mainstream sports.
It is these kind of actions that see the game continually branded as elitist.
Shame! Surely, as the body mandated with governing the game on the African continent, Rugby Africa should have shown leadership and faith in its member unions by keeping this competition on the continent.
Instead they have shortchanged the entire African rugby family, they have given the impression that Africa is not good enough to host anything.
It doesn’t matter what kind of spin they put to this, it is what it is. A very tragic indictment from the “owners of the game on the African continent.”
And it’s not like they are fazed by the reactions to this announcement, they remain blind to the reality on the ground. This is a bad idea, a bad idea that must be condemned.
African rugby competitions must be played on African soil, we really don’t care where, but keep it in Africa.
African Rugby Unions, you need to raise your voices and break the diplomatic silence Rugby Africa, this is utter nonsense and you know it! African rugby deserves better.