As Rugby League continues to expand in Central America, the first rugby league training session has been held in Honduras, in the town of La Esperanza.
It is a particularly poignant moment for Queensland born Chris Reid, founder of the Confederación Centroamericana de Rugby League, who decided there was no reason why he shouldn’t share the love of his favourite sport with the new love of his life.
“La Esperanza is in Intibucá, the state my mother-in-law escaped to from El Salvador and where my wife was born, so for us this has `brought things full circle,” commented Reid. “El Salvador has among the highest number of Latin American ex-pats now living in Australia.
“I started the El Salvador Rugby League back in 2014 and they made their debut at the Cabramatta 9s tournament the following year. Their full Test match bow, played in Sydney, they lost to Chile 58-20 and they have since played Thailand, going down 20-10, but beaten Uruguay 22-14 and Colombia 48-10.”
Since then, Reid (33) has been fielding further enquiries in Central America and attempting to fuel further pockets of interest since.
“I now deal with seven Central American countries. North to South they are Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama,” he confirmed.
“Nicaragua has been standout amongst the Central American nations. We were able very quickly to raise four domestic teams there: Ulua Managua, Diablos Rojos Managua, Chinandega Volcano and León Black Lion, creating Central America’s first ever domestic competition, the Campeonato Nicaragüense de Rugby League which first ran in late 2019.
“The Grand Final in Managua ended with Ulua Managua defeating Managua Diablos Rojos, 23-6. Jonathan Aguirre Espinoza and Alberto Aburto have done tremendous work on the ground there.
“Understandably, the global pandemic has brought a halt to some of the planned development work. We have groups in Belize and Costa Rica wanting to play but it has put a stop to progress,” said Reid, disappointedly. “Once Covid is out of the way we plan to help both of them plus Hondurus begin to learn the game.
“The plan is to establish an annual Central American tournament between the national teams. It will likely start out small but will grow to include all seven.”
Reid has set up two projects for anyone interested to follow and be a part of.
“One project was setting up a `patron page’ in order to gain enough subscribers to hire a full-time development officer for Central America,” said Reid.
“The second is a YouTube channel we have started, in order to create ‘how to’ rugby league content which those becoming interested have immediate access to, as a basic resource.”