The words rugby and Jordan are not two words that one often hears together. A country obsessed with football and woefully short on green open spaces doesn’t lend itself to a full contact sport. However, if you can find it, the game is alive and well here.
The first thing that struck me when I went to play with the Amman Nomads was that all the players are huge and buzzing with excitement; from Facebook statuses to fitness sessions these boys all love the game. Whilst the age range for players vary, some lack the advanced skills that come from a lifetime of playing rugby, highlighting that the grass roots development structure is still needed in Jordan. As a nascent sport in the country, limited funding and trained coaches -- as well as players -- make rugby a challenging sport to develop.
However, despite all obstacles Jordan has pulled through with determined players who are bringing the game to life in big way. Senior players take the lead in coaching teams whilst several expatriates play alongside. Local players showcase Jordan’s famous hospitality as they welcome and create a strong sense of togetherness amongst the diverse team who all play for Jordan, no matter where they’re from.
Mohammad al Majid plays for the Jordanian national team and coaches the Nomads. He talks optimistically about Jordan rugby and is excited for the future: “Rugby has been played in Jordan for more than two decades… [It started] with a small group of Jordanians developing a local club, and expanding that base until it was recognized by the Jordan Olympic Committee and resulting in the establishment of the Jordan Rugby Union.” Since then Rugby in Jordan has gone from strength to strength with the national team participating in various regional competitions and coming first in the 2012 Division D of the Asian 5 nations. Within the country the 3 local teams (Nomads, Amman Citadel and Aqaba Sharks) contribute to developing the sport and feeding the national team.
This strong sense of camaraderie between the players has helped foster the rugby community, joining local and expatriate teams alike, for example in the British Embassy ‘Amman Saracens’ team, where several Jordanians play. The social side to the sport allows everyone to relax after a hard-fought game with their opposite number and build new friendships while boasting about their rugby prowess.
A recent rugby sevens tournament between the two national teams and the two local Amman teams saw all players come together after the event at Brick Lane -- the local sports-lover’s haunt near fourth circle in Amman. As well as providing a place for the players to socialize and watch rugby matches (one of the few places in Jordan to do so) Khader Fares, the owner, has also sponsored the Amman Saracens embassy team in the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens tournament.
This tournament will be played in early December in Dubai and will attract players and punters from around the world. As an avid rugby fan, Khader hopes to increase his sponsorship towards the local teams because he is keen to see the game develop in Jordan. For Khader: “Rugby is still a rare sport in Jordan, but hopefully this tournament and others like it can promote it. Brick Lane will continue to support rugby in Jordan and rugby players are always welcome [here]”. All in all, the outlook for Jordan rugby appears to be positive. As the sport grows in size globally (the first international rugby match on Primetime TV in America was shown just last week) so it continues to grow in Jordan. As long as senior players continue to coach their teams and people like Khader continue to help foster the community, rugby in Jordan will remain a sport to watch!
By Jack Eastwood
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