Out of Africa
Will Africa be the next powerhouse for Rugby League? Previously we have seen the flow of great players from Wales who made their mark in the sport, more recently it is Pacific Island players who are lighting up the stage – Africa looks like it could be a source of immense talent.
In the past 10 years the Middle East Africa region (MEA) has grown from really only having South Africa and Lebanon, separated by almost 10,000km, to now having 12 different countries active and more on the horizon.
South Africa has been an active country in various degrees since the 1960’s and they are now growing into leaders in the region. They bring their experience of rugby league as well as their years as members of the international federation. As well as driving forwards with their own development they are supporting coaching, match official and other development initiatives.
Elsewhere, the progress is remarkable. Ghana, Morocco and Cameroon all travelled to Nigeria to play in the MEA Championship last year. A tournament that delivered exciting games on the field but incredible stories of the lengths that people would go to play rugby league. Ghana are very active in the university sector – an area that has delivered great success elsewhere. Cameroon, Nigeria, Morocco and Ghana have strong programmes for men, women and youths and they are growing them in parallel to ensure the widest possible availability of opportunities. Everyone is in training and prepared to start championships as soon as Covid-19 restrictions allow.
Remond Safi, the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF) officer responsible for the region is upbeat about the progress being made, saying;
“It has been exhilarating overseen the MEA regions growth over the years. The region is looking great with the increase of activities and other nations looking to establish the game. MEA will be a future powerhouse with untapped talent coming from the region.
“We are actively looking at the possibility of establishing a new confederation with a working group established to examine all the requirements.
“Looking forward to RLWC2025, I can see some of the nations making an impact. South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Morocco could emerge quite quickly due to the amount of experienced players that they could call upon from France, Australia and the UK in support of their own domestic talent.