It has been four years since the dramatic formation of the Federazione
Italiana Rugby Football League (originally IRFL until a small change
due to Italian sports policy) in 2010. They say from humble beginnings
a tree grows, well the seed was planted by current FIRFL President
Davide Massitti, with Matteo Visona and "rugby league godfather" (as
he is involved in every facet) Gladiators Roma President Pierluigi
Gentile, who through his rugby contacts organised the original three
foundation clubs in Gladiators Roma, whom he also coaches, Magnifici
Firenze (Luigi Ferraro and Marco Matteini) and Spartans Catania
After four years of work, the rugby tredici roots have formed with a
national championship named the "r-Evolution League" growing from 5
clubs in 2012 to 9 clubs in three separate groups (North, Central and
South) for 2013 with Reggio Emilia, Firenze, Pesaro, Roma, Frosinone,
Ceprano, Belpasso, Catania and Palermo fielding clubs.
The championship throughout its existence has had international,
national or regional television coverage of the Grand Final, 2013
Coppa Italia and season launches, not any small feat for a new amateur
sport and federation! In 2013, it will be at its strongest with more
matches played and the regular rounds increased before finals. Through
a three system development structure consisting of Campionato, Coppa
and Development, the FIRFL has grown to 56 affiliated clubs.
It doesn't stop there the federation the past year has begun junior
(youth) and femminile (women's) movements with three women's rugby
league 9's teams (CUS, Red e Blu and a uni side) in a mini tournament
last year in Rome. Plus a three team women's rugby league 9's
tournament (Frascati, CUS and Red e Blu) at the first International
Lazio Rugbeer event, formed through Pierluigi Gentile jointly with
Frascati Rugby and FIRFL, who he has worked for from mid 2013, while
further the new Celtic Irish Ceprano club has fielded a team in a 7's
tournament and have a hand full of women's players currently regularly
training with the men's rugby league sessions so have potential for
9's activity in future.
The first junior club teams were launched last year with three u16
teams from Gladiators, Lazio Rugby and Magnifici. In 2013, two u16
teams from Rome again played, but this time in the Lazio Rugbeer
tournament, while on June 15 the Falchi Rugby League Franchise formed
an u14 side played at Misano against the first ever rugby league side
from the republic of San Marino with the Bats u14s.
In a recent interview Gentile stated "From 2009 to today we had
exponential growth of participants from 200 in the first year, we went
to over 2000 this year, for all participants in our activities. This
remarkable and sudden growth, and (has been) somewhat unexpected of
our movement, which has meant that even CONI has been noticing us.
This allowed us to make the official request of an observatory to
become a Disciplina Sportiva Associata with CONI.
Our simple goal is to promote more and more this beautiful sport, and
begin to spread further, as it is already happening, even through the
junior categories. In addition, no less important, is our commitment
to promote this sport in the social aspects. In fact, we have already
been able to arrange positive sports projects in prisons like the one
carried out in the prison in Frosinone, or with children with hearing
disabilities (Isis Magarotto). Of course, we are ready and determined
to cast of others because we strongly believe that sport is a great
way to make us feel all equal, and better."
The first international under the FIRFL was played in Reggio Calabria
on May 25 between our Italia XIII and a Barbarian Warriors RL side,
won by the Azzurri 26 to 4 in front 1000 spectators. Without
mentioning figures the sponsorship Gentile and Massitti were able to
obtain for the National XIII and Gladiators Roma is quite impressive
with three major sponsors (Sagad, Codelife and AKAI) attracted for the
first international played.
The federation were able to organise a strong support team led by
English based Ty Sterry as head coach (able to speak Italian), Tino
Magri (assistant from Sicilia), Riccardo Marini (respected manager),
Guido Porcellini (sports medical officer with professional and
national experience) and Luciano Gorla (Athlete Preparation).
A lot of my contact prior to arriving in Italy had been with Gentile,
since being here I have learnt he has not only played for the two
separate Azzurri XIII national line ups, but the Italian Rugby 7's and
Italia A Rugby XV national teams combine this with contacts, his
passion and progress achieved it might be fair to say he is another
"Dane Campbell" type character involved in Rugby League.
This should prove this federation's people are committed to providing
a strong movement to progress our great game like any others. I know
that is more evident first hand in the past 5 weeks.
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