Rugby League is now being actively played in 13 nations in the Middle East and Africa, record growth for the sport in what could become a powerhouse region.
Rugby League European Federation Regional Manager, Remond Safi, who is charged with supporting the growth of the sport across the region has just returned from a successful mission visiting several countries and commented:
“With the news emerging about the support from the RLIF for a MEA Championship we have seen an increase of activity in the region and it has encouraged activity and we have 4 of our members who have set their goals to achieving affiliate membership status by the end of 2019, also we are planning to hold an educational course for the region during 2019 location and tine to be confirmed.”
“I’m pleased to see the enthusiasm amongst the members to increase their activities and setting their goals to participating in the MEA Championship, this will help them further develop the game within their nations by providing a pathway for local talent to participate domestically and represent their nations.”
A brief tour around the region indicates the level of activity. Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Morocco will all launch or complete their domestic competitions in the coming weeks. Several nations including Sierra Leone and Nigeria are having elections and ensuring their governance meets to standards required to achieve government recognition which, in turn, support their membership of the RLIF and the General Assembly of International Sports Federations (GAISF) requirements.
With further local coaching, games and education taking place in Cameroon, DR Congo, Burundi, Ethiopia and Kenya, there is a feeling of great optimism for rugby league in Africa which is backed up by the continue developments in Lebanon and the support for growing the game in Palestine where the under 17 team will have their first game this weekend.
In the coming month the RLEF will announce the details of the MEA Championship which will involve four nations from the region playing in a fully recognised international competition supported by investment from the RLIF.
Kareem Captan member of the board of trustees at Ghana Rugby League said
“With a new board in place, a Inter Hall university championship and the Ghana Rugby League championship to be played before kicking off the maiden MEA tournament in 2019, we are excited about the prospects and development of the sport in the region.”
Carol Manga General Manager Cameroon RL said
” Rugby League XIII has grown so fast in the past few months in Africa. The Cameroon Rugby League XIII is grateful for the support and the commitment from the RLEF for taking the Rugby League XIII to the next level, see strong MEA region because Rugby League XIII is not just a game for the Middle East Africa region, it's platform of social integration and a way out of poverty. We cannot thank enough the MEA Director Remond Safi for working along side with all the countries as one.”
Ade Adebsi Vice president and general manager of Nigeria Rugby League said
"Nigeria Rugby League has been working hard on developing the sport in Nigeria. The preparation for the local championship is ongoing, all our teams now have logos thanks to Louise Woodward – Styles. We are also in talks with universities and more schools about expanding rugby league in that regard. With this view we hope to announce a partnership within the next couple of weeks that will improve rugby league in Nigeria especially in development at the grassroots level.”