The Algarvian Rugby club making the sport increasingly popular among children and adults in Lagoa

With training sessions in Lagoa, the Algarve University Rugby Club is seen by athletes and coaches as a family

– April 10, 2024 | Text Beatriz Maio | Photos Phaze Photography

In Portugal, rugby is becoming increasingly popular among children and adults alike. In the Algarve, the will to play this sport started more than three decades ago when, in 1992, a group of students from different cities all over the country decided to create the Algarve University Rugby Club (CRUAL), in Faro.

Dave Alger (left) and Wayne Aldred
Dave Alger (left) and Wayne Aldred

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 is an enviable team spirit at both the Faro training centre, run by one of the founders Ricardo Rafael, and the one in Lagoa’s Capitão Josino da Costa stadium, run by Dave Alger, with the help of Wayne Aldred and Touch Rugby coach Darragh Jones.

Algarve University Rugby Club (CRUAL), in Faro

Dave, a retired British bank manager and his wife, Alison, joined CRUAL in 2018, a year after the team expanded to the western Algarve, and they can no longer imagine their lives without the team members, whom they see as a 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.

Algarve University Rugby Club (CRUAL), in Faro

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 started the club, it’s getting bigger and we have improved,” he said.

Algarve University Rugby Club (CRUAL), in Faro

More than just a club, at the Lagoa centre unity shines through with collective happiness, 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 four years old. “In rugby, there’s a place for everyone and there is a team effort,” Dave emphasised, explaining that “if you’re big and can run slowly, you’re perfect for a forward. If you’re a little bit fitter and you can run fast, you’re perfect for the wing”.

Algarve University Rugby Club (CRUAL), in Faro

In CRUAL, there are people of all ages, nationalities, backgrounds, and skill levels everyone is welcome and their strengths are valued. “There’s always room for you somewhere within the team,” the children’s coach stressed.

Alison’s happiness and friendliness can captivate anyone to join the team, but as if those qualities weren’t enough, she always has a treat for all the players in the middle of the training: orange segments to give a boost of energy and provide a moment of conviviality and enthusiasm for everyone.

Algarve University Rugby Club (CRUAL), in Faro

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 it. Not only is he a really good player but also, he communicates better than anyone else. “If they don’t do something right, I talk to them, they understand and change,” he revealed.

The rugby culture differs from that of other sports and its values are visible even to those who have no idea of the rules, as it’s not a sport explored in the Portuguese school programme. Everyone can see the obedience to the referee’s decisions and the good manners of the players.

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 stated.

Algarve University Rugby Club (CRUAL), in Faro

Even though the desire to teach and train is enormous, the 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 the competitions have been constraints on the team’s development, but Dave and Alison don’t give up and use these difficulties as fuel to get the team going. And there are good news on the horizon. According to Lagoa Mayor Luís Encarnação, the stadium’s synthetic pitch is due to be refurbished later this year, giving the athletes better conditions to practice 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. He also added that “new lighting will be installed very soon“.

There are many nationalities at the club, from Portuguese, English, French, and South Africans to New Zealanders, but communication is not a problem. For Dave, Rugby “is a universal language” and helps with social skills. “We want them to play and enjoy it,” he added, revealing that some team members are taking a coaching course. CRUAL has a promising future but, for now, the focus is on increasing its profile and the number of players.

Author: Inside Magazines

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