By Wil Crisp.
Tripoli, 9 February 2013:
Libyan rugby is continuing to expand at a break-neck pace. A new team is due to start training today, Sunday, the ninth to spring up since the game was legalised in 2009.
The new team, Tripoli Friends (Assadiqa) based in Khadba Al-Khadra, has been formed by Tarek Benrewin, a member of Libya’s rugby committee. Benrewin said he has been inundated by requests to join the new club and 14 people have signed up already, twice the number of men needed to field a team in Libya’s seven-a-side competitions.
Benrewin, whose brother was martyred during the final attack on Qaddafi’s Bab Al-Azizia compound, explained that part of the reason the game is proving to be so popular is its appeal to former revolutionaries. He said around half the Tripoli clubs’ players were in brigades that saw heavy fighting during the uprising, but that it was only recently that the game started to really bloom.
“One year ago I thought about starting a rugby league where the different militias would each field a team, but everyone was still carrying weapons and I was worried they might turn up to games with Kalashnikovs and start shooting if something if they weren’t happy”, he said half-jokingly.
Benrewin announced the formation of his new team at the second round of a countrywide tournament on Friday. Some of those who signed up for his new club were among the crowd. Mohamed El-Kattaf, 23, from Fornaj , said although he had never played rugby before, the game appealed to him because it offered a way to “express your anger in a legal way”. It was the game’s passion and the action that made it so attractive, he added.
Mohamed Karmoss, a 33-year-old chemical engineer from Tajoura working with Schlumberger as a drilling fluids specialist also said he had never played before. He had seen rugby before on TV and had not thought much of it. But seeing the game live had impressed him. “It is a man’s sport” he said, adding that he was looking forward to being part of Tripoli Friends. He liked the fact that you had to work as a team. His immediate concern now was to get fit.
Tripoli Friends will start training on a floodlit pitch in Hadba Al-Khadra tomorrow, Sunday.
Currently all of Libya’s teams have to be affiliated to a football team, but Tripoli Friends are set to break with this tradition, setting up as an independent entity.
The teams put on a highly competitive display on Friday. However, the General-Secretary of Libya’s Rugby Committee, Karim Forjani, said there is potential for Libya’s clubs to play at a much higher standard:
“At the moment there is only one qualified referee in the country and only two qualified coaches, including myself. We’re trying to arrange training sessions for new referees and coaches but at the moment most people are just teaching themselves by watching games and videos on the internet.”
He said that he expected 20 new clubs to be formed this year throughout the country.
Shabab and Ahli Tripoli kicked off the day’s matches with Ahli the clear favourite after the 12-0 beating they gave Shabab last week. But that success was not to be repeated and Shabab came away with the victory, winning 14-5.
Shabab stayed on the pitch for the second game where they faced Tarsana. Showing no sign of flagging they repeatedly charged through Tarsana’s defences to win 26-0.
Fresh from their loss Tarsana regrouped to take on Ahli in the final game of the day, but even after a spirited performance and some good runs, they failed to get on the scoreboard and the final score was 19-0 to Ahli.
The day’s play puts Shabab and Ahli in prime position to go onto the second stage of the competition where they will face Benghazi’s best two teams. First though they’ll have to prove themselves in the third and final local round, which is due to take place on 8 March.
Benghazi teams also played their second local round today. Scores there were: Hilal 20, Tahady 5; Tahady 5, Benghazi Al-Jadida 12; Hilal 22, Benghazi Al-Jadida 0.
Tripoli’s teams will take on Benghazi clubs on the 22 February when the top two clubs from the eastern city will travel to the capital for an all-day tournament.