It promises to be a big week for the sport of rugby in Jordan, possibly the biggest since it first reached these shores around 20 years ago.
While rugby has become one of sports’ most notable global success stories, here in Jordan it is enjoying a promising introduction but over the next week it will be propelled into the Asian spotlight.
That is because the Kingdom will host two matches in the Asian Rugby Championship (Division Three West) and a rugby festival, which is then followed by a meeting of the Asian Rugby Council to be held at the Dead Sea on May 1.
Quite a week for the Jordan Rugby Committee which was only formed in 2012 under the Presidency of HRH Prince Mirad Bin Ra’ad, but has rapidly introduced the game to more and more people since through an exhaustive campaign.
“We are very ambitious,” said Aziz Abukhalaf, the Operations Manager at Jordan Rugby Committee. “We are committed to developing the sport here in Jordan and have a passionate playing community which is really the backbone of the sport with everyone pulling together to work hard and help it grow. The players really drive the game forward here.”
On Tuesday, Jordan hosts the UAE Shaheen team followed by Friday’s second Test match against Saudi Arabia, with both matches being played at Petra University at 4pm.
To prepare for the games, Jordan won two matches against the Barbarians, a team made up of expatriates and local players from the five-team Premiership League which recently concluded.
“The League was hugely competitive,” said Aziz. “Last year we only had two sides and this year we had five including the Saracens, which is an expat team, and the Aqaba Sharks, who managed travel up to Amman every Friday to play. We had 10 very good matches and we hope that next year there will be more games with the teams playing each other ‘home and away’.”
Friday’s Jordan Rugby Festival alongside the big national team match is the culmination of four years of hard work to promote the game. The Youth 7s Championship, featuring 13 clubs and four age groups, will conclude on the day, and there will be a ‘tag’ tournament and possibly a ladies exhibition match.
“We are working hard to develop the game for women and provide more opportunities. We have only just started in this area but the early signs are very promising with a good number turning up to try the sport,” said Aziz.
The Get Into Rugby programme has succeeded in reaching 13 schools to date with more than 500 boys and girls taking part in a recent festival.
The top officials in Asian rugby can see for themselves what progress has been made when Jordan hosts the Asian Rugby Council Mid Year Meeting on May 1 with around 50 people flying in. Many are coming early to attend the festival.
So what next? There is a long way to go before Jordan reaches the dizzy heights of top flight rugby but their ambitions are admirable.
“We will continue to develop the sport to create more opportunities for everyone to play,” said Aziz. “We also want to develop the national team to become more professional and hopefully one day to qualify to the Olympics.”
The long road to success has to start somewhere, but there is no doubt that Jordan is doing its best to catch up.
For more information about rugby, visit http://www.jordanrugby.com