Rugby is built on a unique set of values which make it unlike any other sport, with emphasis on practicing integrity, respect, selflessness, and a sense of team spirit.
As a grass-roots club, with a strong affiliation to Wimbledon College and a thriving juniors section, Old Wimbledonians RFC is dedicated to teaching those values to our young players from the first time they pick up a rugby ball.
Of course, we’re also keen to try and communicate those values out beyond our own community whenever possible, and thanks to our Warriors that’s something we’ve been achieving in recent years.
A brief bit of background…
The mini and junior section of our club, the Warriors, was founded in 2008 by former Old Wimbledonians First XV star Roger Brosch. With over 480 players across 13 age groups there’s always a high demand for kit, and each of the Warriors teams replaces its kit and equipment at least every three years. When that happens, the Warriors committee reaches out to parents to collect all the second-hand kit with the intention of donating it to others in need.
Brian Moore, who won 64 caps for England in the late 80s and early 90s, has a daughter who plays rugby for the Warriors. So in the early years, the Warriors supported Brian’s charity work by providing that second-hand kit – including training shirts, shorts, socks, and other items – and sending it out to children in Kenya.
However, in more recent years, the Warriors has also been sending rugby kit and equipment to a school in Central Ghana. We sat down and spoke to Roger about how that relationship came about, and the positive impact rugby is having on the children in that community.
We first asked Roger, how was the relationship between the Warriors and the school first established?
He explained, “I’ve been using the Virgin Active gym in the city for 12 years in the mornings, and that’s where I met a man from Ghana named Ebby. He’s worked there ironing shirts in the men’s locker room every morning, and after a while we started chatting regularly. As I got to know him, I learned more about where he was from and the challenges faced by his local community in Ghana. He’s a very positive, enthusiastic, and engaging person, and is chair of a charity that supports schools and communities over there. It became clear that with the resources available to the Warriors, we could and should try to help.”
So far, the Warriors committee has sent over 200 rugby balls and 300 rugby shirts to three different regions in Africa, and they’re all still being used today by children learning the sport. This has allowed rugby to be played in remote areas of this amazing continent, where previously very few people were familiar with it.
And the donations don’t stop there. Roger went on to discuss other activities designed to help:
“Through the business I work with,, we arranged in 2018 for 15 computers and laptops to be sent out to the school as well. They’re now housed in a new IT facility, and gave the kids access to the Internet for learning and research for the very first time. Their school results have already seen a marked increase, and we’re looking to support another school in the region by sending another 15 computers this summer. Foster Denovo
And, back to rugby, just how popular is the sport currently with school children in Ghana? Does it have a promising future?
“Football is still very much the main sport in Ghana,” said Roger. “That’s unlikely to change any time soon, but rugby is starting to catch on quickly and there’s a great deal of interest at the school which we hope our donations will build further. They’re now starting to have matches with other local schools which is a very exciting development. Rugby is of particular interest to kids who are not naturally good at football, which gives lots more children an interest in something different they can excel at.”
And what kind of impact has rugby had on the wider community?
“The core values of rugby really do differentiate the sport, and they also combine well with the largely Christian education system in Ghana. Rugby is inspiring these kids to have courage and confidence, and to work together more as a team. It’s also helping them take a disciplined approach to working hard for success, and to always respect the players, coaches, and teachers who support them. Most importantly, though, rugby is about having fun. Giving them a chance to get outside, get active, and enjoy playing our great sport is something we're really proud of.”
Finally, we asked Roger for any final thoughts on this fantastic relationship as an example of how rugby brings people together. He told us:
“I think it’s important to point out that Ebby is a very inspiring person and deserves a huge amount of credit. He doesn’t have much himself in terms of worldly possessions, and has had to live away from his family and friends to enable his kids to get an education. Still, he’s always thinking of what he can give back or looking for things he can do to make life better for the kids back home. He's a Chief in his tribe and very well respected by his whole community. It’s humbling to see the difference it can make by helping others with things that we here in the UK perhaps take for granted or are too quick to discard.”
“Success is all relative, and I’m thrilled that the Warriors has been able to play even a small part in the development of rugby and education in a remote part of the world. Africa is a sleeping giant in every sense, and I’m sure we’ll see countries like Ghana on the international rugby scene in years to come.”
To learn more about the Warriors, which is open to boys and girls of all ages and abilities, you can visit the official website here: Old Wimbledonian Warriors.
To discover what plans the recently-appointed OWRFC Chairman, Richard Travers, has for the club in the coming years, read our exclusive interview with him here.