Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Future Rugby Development: Haiti

Photo IRB
IRB CEO Brett Gosper has been actively involved on social networks such as twitter in an effort to help grow the profile of the sport he loves. Part of his efforts involves the Australian posting photos from around the global and one such picture has been attracting great interest as of late. A photo of an artificial rugby field in the former French colony of Haiti illustrated the continued growth of the game. Haiti is not an IRB member nor does it play in NACRA competitions. But with links to France and rugby playing nations in the Caribbean it has potential to become an IRB member over time.

The country of Haiti is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. The majority live below the poverty line and the country lacks infrastructure and resources to develop. It was a French country which declared independence in 1804 and was recognized by France as being independent in 1825. Under French rule the country was forever re-shaped to the extent that little to nothing remained after French rule had ended. 

Some International Organizations firmly lay the blame on France for the state of the country over the past two hundred years. In 2008 France was estimated at owing the country $40 billion for independence and the devastating earthquake of 2012 similarly saw suggestions made that France was to blame for failing to develop the country and leaving it in ruins upon independence.

Having rugby in the country is a means to help by reaching out to the youth and teaching values of hard work, teamwork and respect. Indeed the sport has contributed to impoverished neighborhoods in countries including Brazil and Colombia which have been featured on Total Rugby. The country has previously seen notable players of the global game involved in charity efforts. The 99 time capped Ireland and British and Irish Lions second-rower Paul O´Connell visited the country in 2012. Should O´Connell play on Ireland´s end of season tour then he will earn his 100th cap against Argentina in Resistencia in June. 

Although the sport of rugby is rarely associated with Haiti the country did nonetheless make a remarkable contribution to the global game. Constantin Henrique de Zubiera was born in Haiti and played international rugby for Stade Français winning the French championship in 1897, 1898 and 1901. He also played for France and is the first known black athlete to have competed in the Olympic Games. In winning Gold for the French rugby team in the 1900 Olympics in Paris he is regarded as being the first black athlete to win a medal. 

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