In the lead up to their fixtures in European Championship B, against Serbia and Russia (which double as qualifiers for RLWC2021 in England) the Spanish Rugby League Federation is further fostering a close relationship with soccer in the Valencia region.
“Instead of trying to go head-to-head with other sports, Rugby League here is starting to join forces with other programmes, as a way to increase exposure and awareness of the game,” said AERL administrator, Aitor Davilia. “The Valencia region in particular has seen a number of initiatives in which our game has been a part of kids’ football camps, and been seen at local schools.”
The best example is the town of Carlet, about 30km south of Valencia where, for the past four years thanks to a connection with Spanish national team member, Andrew Pilkington, the AERL has run coaching sessions during the month-long summer football camps.
As a result, when (18 months ago) the Spanish U21 side wanted to run a residential training camp prior to a summer friendly against Italy, their natural choice of venue was Carlet. And likewise, when the full domestic national side welcomed Great Britain Teachers earlier this year, Carlet once again opened its arms and facilities.
Commenting on behalf of Carlet’s youth football programme, Carl Miguel Guzmán Moreno, its director said: “The guys from Rugby League have always come down here, without any financial motives, to show our children more about their sport and its virtues. And in return, our club and the town have given them access to facilities for matches, training sessions and camps, and the bond has strengthened as time has gone on.”
With the opportunity to further develop such links and expose more Spanish children to rugby league, AERL has undertaken sessions in similar football and multisport camps in Beniparrell (home of the country’s founding club, Valencian Warriors) and Vilamarxant.
Izan Galera, one of the organisers of the Vilamarxant camp noted that his company (Grup Multiesport Vilamarxant): “Is well aware of the need for young children to be exposed to a range of sports and learn about the values it can bring to their lives, so we actively encourage new sports into our events.”
With the national team entering camp at the beginning of October in preparation for the European Championship B matches, the likelihood is that at least one training session will be taken to Carlet, while some sessions will take place at Valencia’s Cambridge House Community College, a British school that hosted a number of national team players last year. On that visit, students were not only put through their on-field paces, they were also given talks on the players’ careers, and the demands of being an amateur athlete on the international stage.
According to Davilia: “Children from all three venues – Cambridge House, Vilamarxant and Carlet – will be invited to attend our match on 6 October, against Russia, and walk out with the teams, thus further strengthening bonds and maybe capturing the imagination of a future `XIII de Toro’ star.”
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP B FIXTURES
|6 Oct 2018 – 15:00||Spain||Russia||Quatre Carreres, Valencia|
|13 Oct 2018 – 15:00||Russia||Serbia||Fily Stadium, Moscow|
|20 Oct 2018 – 14:00||Serbia||Spain||Makis Stadium, Belgrade|