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Love for Rugby is what Unites Ukrainians and South Africans!

June 3, 2024 | 0 Comments

The 10th “Ambassador of South Africa’s Rugby Cup” took place on 25 May, Africa Day, in Kyiv!

Over 145 children enjoyed a fun day and a sporting challenge!

During the war, when Russia bombs Ukraine and Kyiv daily, organising a sporting tournament was a real challenge. The spectators are not allowed to attend sporting events during the war, and no public advertising can be used to prevent air strikes. Moreover, if the siren goes off during the tournament, all the kids have to move to the bomb shelter. If the siren lasts over 30 minutes, the tournament must be rescheduled. This was the organisers’ biggest fear. Luckily, the tournament finished at 2 pm, and just at that time, the siren went off as Russia sent ballistic missiles into peaceful Ukrainian cities. 

On that day in Kharkiv, Russia bombed and destroyed the “Epicentr” hypermarket. During that air strike, at least 18 people were killed and 65 were injured.

The idea of the “Ambassador of SA Rugby Cup” was conceived back in 2010, with the backing of Andries Fenter, then Ambassador of South Africa to Ukraine. Initially, the tournament featured contact rugby across various categories, including children, students, men, and women. Subsequently, tag rugby was introduced as an additional category. Children affiliated with clubs and sports schools participate in contact rugby, while teams from regular public schools can register for tag rugby. Since 2010 the Cup is organised by the “Child and Youth Rugby Development Fund in Ukraine” with the support of the South African Embassy. 

Before the war, there were over 450 young rugby players annually; however, now, with over 6 million Ukrainian women and children abroad, the number of participants has significantly dropped. 

Sporting events are even more important in times of war as they play an essential role in the psycho-social rehabilitation of Ukrainian children who spend long hours in bomb shelters and are under constant stress to survive.

The Director of the “Child and Youth Rugby Development Fund in Ukraine”, Leonid Deineko, stressed that the tournament is inclusive, and attention is paid to children with special needs during the event. “Rugby is an inclusive sport, and as part of our inclusivity efforts, teams of children with special needs participate in every “Ambassador of South Africa’s Rugby Cup.”

Leonid Deineko was inspired to promote rugby in Ukraine after his visit to South Africa in 2007. He visited rugby clubs in Pretoria, Cape Town and also attended a game at the University of Pretoria. That visit was organised by South African diplomat Francois Hentschel, who served in Kyiv from 2004-2009, a keen rugby enthusiast who attended all rugby games in Ukraine wearing Springbok colours.

The Ukrainian Association of South Africa is delighted to have an opportunity to support the tournament with Springbok rugby balls and souvenirs for the children. We are very grateful to the Embassy of South Africa in Ukraine and Ambassador Shoayb Casoo, as well as sponsors in South Africa who wished to remain anonymous.