Between training, pre-competition, and competition, fun is guaranteed, and there’s an enviable team spirit
In Portugal, rugby is becoming increasingly popular among children and adults alike. In the Algarve, the desire to play this sport started more than three decades ago when, in 1992, a group of students decided to launch the Algarve University Rugby Club (CRUAL) in Faro.
They began by playing in university championships and moved on to the Portuguese Rugby Federation’s National Championship, where they played in the last 16 of the Portuguese Cup. In 2012, the club decided to invest in training and has since taken part in various competitions.
Between training, pre-competition, and competition, fun is guaranteed, and there’s an enviable team spirit at both the Faro training centre, run by one of the founders, Ricardo Rafael, and the one in Lagoa, run by Dave Alger, with the help of Wayne Aldred in the younger classes, Touch Rugby coach Darragh Jones and his wife Alison, who is irreplaceable in her role as the handler of bureaucracy.
Although the desire to train and progress is enormous, conditions are not ideal. The lack of a grass pitch and posts, basic conditions such as electricity and changing rooms where the athletes can shower, and transport to competitions have been constraints on the team’s development, but they don’t give up and use the difficulties as fuel to move the athletes on.
According to Lagoa Mayor Luís Encarnação, the synthetic pitch at the Capitão Josino da Costa stadium is due to be refurbished later this year, giving the athletes all the necessary conditions for this sport. As it is “a recent sport with no tradition” in Portugal, “there were no facilities available for it” in Lagoa, explained the mayor.
This is “one of the municipality’s greatest shortcomings”, said Luís Encarnação, who also guaranteed that “new lighting will be installed very soon“. As for the use of the sports facilities, which are owned by the Clube Desportivo de Lagoa, the mayor confirmed that the municipality has been trying to reach a collaboration with the club but so far without success.
Even if there are obstacles, joy and unity shine through in Lagoa, whether it’s training the younger players or playing Touch Rugby among adults. Respect and discipline are instilled from an early age in a cheerful and family atmosphere that prepares the athletes for competitions in Lisbon.
At the moment, around 25 children make up the Lagoa centre, with the youngest being just four years old. “In rugby, there’s a place for everyone and there is team effort,” Dave said, explaining that “if you’re big and run slower, you’re perfect for a forward. If you’re a little bit fitter and you can run fast, you’re perfect for the wing”.
In CRUAL, there are people of all ages, nationalities, and backgrounds; everyone is welcomed, and their strengths are valued. “There’s always room for you somewhere within the team,” the children’s coach stressed.
Archie Glashier, who has British parents and was born in Portugal, started playing two years ago. He had never tried rugby before but decided to join the club with a friend. Today, aged 14, he is the team captain and couldn’t be better at leading it. Not only is he a really good player but he also communicates with his colleagues better than anyone else. “If they don’t do something right, I talk to them, they understand and change,” he told the Resident.
Rugby’s culture differs from that of other sports and its values are visible even to those who have no idea of the rules, as it is not a sport included in the Portuguese school programme. Players are known for their good manners and for respecting the referee’s decisions.
“Rugby is based upon respect and adherence to the rules as well as teamwork. We support each other,” Dave recognised. Wayne also agrees that the principles taught in this sport differ from others. “Rugby is a hooligans’ game played by gentlemen. It’s rough, but all the players are respectful and disciplined,” he considered.
Dave, a retired British bank manager, and his wife Alison joined CRUAL in 2018, a year after the team expanded to the west of the Algarve, and they can no longer imagine their lives without the team members, whom they see as family. They always had a connection to sports in the UK, but with rugby in particular: Dave started playing at 14 at school and joined a club at 17, while Alison followed her brother’s team, which he captained.
Although they lost touch with rugby over the years, the passion never went away and, when Dave saw a CRUAL advert in the newspaper, he didn’t hesitate. He joined the club and, two years later, at the age of 66, he took a coaching course and became responsible for teaching the children. “Since I joined the club, it’s getting bigger and we have improved,” Dave said.
There are many nationalities at the club, including Portuguese, English, French, South Africans, and New Zealanders, but communication is never a problem. Rugby “is a universal language” and helps develop social skills, says Dave.
CRUAL has a promising future but, for now, the focus is on increasing its profile and the number of players.
[email protected] | https://web.crual.pt
Faro (PT/EN) – 965 519 309
Lagoa (PT) – 914 447 799 | (EN) – 962 315 256
Photos: PHAZE PHOTOGRAPHY