Bringing Rugby to Burundi





Pierre Rabadan and Salim Tebani Bring Rugby to Burundi!


From May 26th to 30th, 2014, two of our rugby ambassadors, Pierre Rabadan (Stade Français) and Salim Tebani (US Oyonnax), took a trip to Burundi to see our volunteers. Once there, they participated in training local facilitators in how to play rugby, which up to that point, they didn’t know how to play.


Come and join us in listening to their stories and being immersed in their adventures with the local population.



On the shores of Lake Tanganyika, near Bujumbura, you can hear shouting and laughter. It’s Monday May 26th. That morning, Pierre Rabadan and Salim Tebani set foot on Burundian soil. Their mission: introduce rugby to people in refugee camps in Buterere. But to get there, they have to do one thing first: train Burundian sports educators in the ways of rugby. On the burning sand, black and orange PL4Y International t-shirts contrasted against the bright sun, thirty or more have come to accept the challenge. On the menu: spin passes, scrum, and lines-out. Everyone’s in high spirits, and they finish with a group picture.


Once back at the PL4Y office in Bujumbura, they rehydrate before getting started with the next step: create a learning game, inspired by rugby. Our two ambassadors discover Playdagogy, or preventive education through fun and games. Now it’s the two rugby players who are listening carefully! The group decides that recognising gender discrimination and its effects should be the main theme for the game. “They were impressed, that’s for sure,” smiles Caroline Therrien, mission head for PL4Y International in Burundi for the last two-and-a-half years. “I don’t think they were expecting us to use rugby to raise awareness on this type of subject.” Once created, the game moves to Buterere for practical application with children.



Refugee camps were set up after fatal flooding affected the region to the north of Bujumbura last February; during the night, from the 9th to the 10th of February, 68 people were killed, carried off by torrential rain and mudslides. Nearly 12,000 people were affected, leading to the creation of refugee camps for those who had lost everything. In one of these camps, in Buterere, there are over 100 children with little to do during the day. “The children here are a great audience; they are always very attentive and listen well,” says Therrien. “There’s never been the slightest problem in the camp. They wait impatiently for the sports activities because it gives them a moment to get out and play like other children.” Established in Burundi since 2008, PL4Y International, in association with UNICEF, has set up socio-athletic activities to help brighten their days, to get them to participate socially, and to learn while having fun. 28,000 children benefited from these programmes in 2013.



The sports educators are explaining the importance of warming up. Salim gets the game started. In the middle of all the kids, the Algerian hops about just like everyone else. The curious ones want to see this odd sport with an oval ball. Pierre’s shock of brown hair is a hit! After this little meet-and-greet warm up, the kids start the game, excited yet under control. They even resist causing a ruckus. Those not playing earnestly watch our cameraman, Manuel Herrero, who came with the athletes to report for Les Nouveaux Explorateurs (New Explorers), to be broadcast in November on Canal+. The kids ask him to take their picture.


After several hours of activities, our two rugby players, drained from their efforts and the heat, are surprised by the children’s endurance. What’s more, most of them are playing barefoot, whereas the athletes have their trainers. Pierre had previously rubbed shoulder with volunteers in the field in Kosovo, but he explains: “It’s the first time in my life I’ve been in such an impoverished place…” Salim, who would appear moved by his experience, says, “It’s all very touching. It reminds me somewhat of my Algeria…I also have children. I’m really thinking of them right now.” Later, Pierre ends up with a drum on his head. Béatrice Avignon, also on the trip, immortalises these moments. Her photos eventually end up being used for the five-page article for l’Equipe, to be published July 19. “We are living some intense moments,” smiles Pierre. The back row for Stade Français takes advantage of the few hours between him and his return to France. He takes pictures of a hippo. Béatrice later tweets: “Burundi, that’s what it is.”



We are so gratefull to Pierre Rabadan and Salim Tebani for accepting this mission.

A big ‘thank you’ to Béatrice Avignon and Manuel Herrero for the coverage of our ambassadors’ trip.    
We also would like to thank our strategic partners, Conseil regional des Pays- de-la-Loire and UNICEF for their support, as well as the French ambassador to Burundi who made this mission possible.