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Languages student on a mission to give rugby a try in Brazil

Published: 15 August 2016Origin: Humanities
Andrew Turner has been promoting rugby in Brazil ahead of the Rio Olympics

It’s fair to say that Brazil is well-known as the world’s top nation for football but with Rugby 7’s staged for the first time ever as part of the Rio Olympics this year, there’s a major push to generate even further global interest in the game with the oval ball.


At the forefront of this push is Southampton student Andrew Turner who has spent the last year on placement as a Development Officer for Premiership Rugby on the Try Rugby Brazil project, which began in São Paulo in 2012. Like all students of Modern Languages at the University of Southampton, (except those taking English as their first foreign language), Andrew is spending his third year abroad in a country where one of the languages they are studying is spoken. The 21-year-old, originally from Luton, has been in the State of Rio de Janeiro since June 2015 to help promote the growth of rugby union across the Brazil and engage in activities on the ground in the lead-up to the Olympics to bring the game to some of the country’s most deprived communities.

“Rugby Development in Brazil is an exciting thing to be involved with,” said Andrew. “For the Try Rugby RJ (Rio de Janeiro) project, it’s all about promoting the game at a grassroots level, as this is the foundation for all sport. We’ve been involved mostly with events of our own in and around the Games, as it is a massive opportunity for the project to be recognised. Some of these include taking children to a Team GB training session, conferences at the British House [the UK’s official residence at Rio 2016], and an event with the Chairman of the British Council.

“We’ve made some fantastic links with official partners, and had some great formal experiences,” he continued. “Recently, I was invited to meet General Novaes from the Brazilian Army, to discuss implementing rugby as a sport within the AMAN Military Academy (equivalent to Sandhurst). I’ve also travelled for PR events with Team GB Rugby Sevens, before further events back in Rio during the Games.

“As an advocate for language study, it is great to see Modern Languages prove, yet again, that it offers fantastic opportunities beyond the stereotypes of interpreting/translation work,” Andrew concluded. “It’s a great feeling to have been a key part of this story, and I’ll carry these experiences with me as new personal and professional chapters in my life begin to unfold.

Andrew emphasises that Try Rugby, a partnership between Premiership Rugby in the UK, the British Council, Jaguar Land Rover and SESI, the Brazilian Social Services for Industry, is not an outlet for talent scouts but aimed at growing rugby’s popularity to encourage more Brazilians to play and follow the sport, regardless of gender or age.

“Once you increase your player base, sport naturally becomes more competitive, and this in turn springboards the profile of the game, along with help from huge catalysts such as the Olympic Games or the Rugby World Cup,” Andrew explained. “Furthermore, even for those who may not enjoy the physical aspects of Rugby, the Five Core Values (Discipline, Respect, Integrity, Passion and Solidarity) are applicable in creating better people. This aspect is particularly popular with schools and Youth Clubs, who would also like to see some form of positive social change within the younger generations.”

The success of Try Rugby is dependent upon the experience offered to local participants says Andrew. During his time in Rio, he has witnessed firsthand as children new to rugby have developed not only as rugby players but as people and personalities. He’s also enjoyed being absorbed in the ‘Rio experience’.

“Sports wise, Brazilian children are naturally competitive, so it’s been great to see that modern coaching techniques such as using short snappy games go down well, as they constantly try their best, and aren’t afraid to use their imagination,” said Andrew. “I’ve seen friendships born in my sessions, I’ve seen behaviour improve steadily over months in young people with some harrowing pasts, and I’ve seen shy children jump for joy as they sidestep someone older and run in to score their first ever try.

“It’s important to adapt the learning process to each participant, and in general, the beaming smiles are a giveaway that the session has been well-received,” he added. “And while I’ve seen a change in behaviour and ability in the children, my own outlook on life has certainly been influenced in similar ways. Brazil has been a fantastic professional, and indeed personal experience that I will take forward with me as new chapters in my life begin to unfold.”



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