Rugby is on the up in Jordan following tremendous progress made over the past few years.
The national team became Arab 7s champions and World Rugby has this past month recognised Jordan as a member due to its work in developing the sport.
We caught up with the key player, Firas Khalifeh, to learn more!
When did you start playing?
I have loved Rugby since I was very young.
I played lots of sports including Football and I was a member of different clubs. Due to my academic life, I stopped football and took up Martial Arts as a hobby.
But during one of the tournaments, I met Zaid Arabyiat who was the rugby captain at the time. He encouraged me to take up rugby. From that time, I started Rugby and it has changed my life.
Tell us about joining the national team?
I started Rugby in 2015, and at that time the team was preparing to participate in the West Asian Championship. I was watching the national team training as I was in Team B. I went to the Coach and I asked him to put me in team A. He laughed and told me next year, and then the next year he chose me.
Winning the Arab 7s title last year, how this is important for Jordan?
This title was a historical for Jordan Rugby, and came despite the difficulties we had faced as players and management. The event was supposed to be held in Lebanon and then they moved it to Jordan which made it a big challenge for us as organisers and hosts. But we went on to win the title. It was a unique moment for all of us.
And that final match?
It was an epic occasion. It was the first time for us to be in the final of any Arab championship and it was against the current champions, Egypt, who wanted to continue their domination of the title. They started well and were strong until the end of the first half. At the break our coach changed our game plan and it worked. It was a really tough match until the last seconds, but we gave it everything and beat them.
Does Jordan still view Rugby as a strange sport, and what is your role to change this as athlete?
After being promoted gradually, people are starting to understand rugby and more players are taking it up, especially in the women’s category. What makes it unique is how the sport is uniting us as one family with one for all and all for one.
As athletes, we are trying always to show the values of this sport and how they can play a role in our daily lives. Respect, commitment, transparency, love and co-operation are some of the values that you can have in Rugby.
What are your future dreams?
I wish for Rugby to become even more popular in Jordan and the Arab world as a whole. I also wish for Jordan to compete on the Asian level as serious contenders.