One of the stalwart administrators in European rugby league, Yves-Michael Kazadi, is standing down due to ill health, after ten years’ service to the game – the last five of which he served as President of the Belgium Rugby League Association.
“It has been a pleasure to help develop the sport here but I must now focus on my family,” said Kazadi. “I am hoping to be back in some lesser capacity.
We have made it to 17th in the world rankings, helped from the beginning by our neighbours in the Netherlands, and our most recent national head coach Tony Benson has significantly helped to raise our standard and profile over the past three years.”
The BRLA began under Kazadi in 2009, and since then has played men’s internationals on a regular basis, most frequently against the Czech Republic and Netherlands. A full domestic club competition has yet to be develop, but teams based in Brussels and outlying areas have crossed the border to play competitive games.
In 2019, it is the Brussels Falcons who fly the flag for the sport, with a men’s team supporting two junior clubs, the Panthers and the Bears. The Falcons, like their predecessors in the capital, the Gorillas, are looking into the possibility of playing in the Netherlands, men’s competition, in order to gain regular games.
“IN 2015 we played a memorable international against Malta at Headingly, as curtain-raiser to a Super League game, which shows that you can dream big,” said Kazadi.
RLIF global manager, Danny Kazandjian – who worked with Kazadi to help establish the sport in Belgium – commented: “On behalf of the European and International Federations, I would like to publicly thank Yves-Michael for his unstinting services to Rugby League in Belgium. He is one of our dozens of unsung heroes and deserves public accolade for the work he has done to establish our sport in an unfamiliar environment, often against the odds.”
Zakaria Zoubir will take over the running of the BRLA as an interim lead, while Francois Gillet will lead development in the Wallonie–Bruxelles region.
Part-funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ grant, Belgium RL has engaged in the RLEF’s technical programme.