The rain is pelting down and the temperature has sunk close to zero.  On the pitch, two teams of boys and, in some cases, girls, run, dodge and tackle as they dispute possession of an oval-shaped ball, gradually becoming muddier as they do so.  It’s fast-paced, end-to-end stuff involving fitness, strategy and sophisticated tactics in a full-contact sport.  No wonder people say that rugby is one of the greatest character-building activities on earth.  And no wonder that everyone here at the Spartak Stadium in Kyiv is having a terrific time.

I first went to Spartak to see the John Marsh Memorial Youth Rugby Tournament way back in 2008, and first blogged about it in 2009 (when the weather was kinder).  It’s a terrific event, organised by a group of enthusiasts to help increase the popularity of rugby in Ukraine, and has now been going for eight years.  By focusing on young players and working with schools, (the tournament is for 13 and 14 year-olds) the aim is to encourage younger people to take up the game.  This year the tournament, which happened in October, also includes the first woman coach, along with three female players, one from Kryvyi Rig and two from Donetsk.  With ten Ukrainian and two Russian teams participating, the tournament is hard-fought and after a thrilling final, the team from Moscow Oblast run out deserved winners.  Despite the harsh weather, everyone is in great spirits, and the tournament is adjudged a resounding success.

You can read a bit more about the rugby here, including the fact that there are two main versions of the game, rugby union (did you know that a New Zealand touring team performed the “haka” battle dance before games in the UK as early as 1905?) and rugby league, whose Ukrainian team I met last year in Kharkiv.

If you’d like to get involved in rugby in Ukraine, you can contact Anthony Nichol at, Pavel Gugiev at Eger Rugby Club at or Dmitriy Samoylenko at the National Rugby Federation of Ukraine at  Alternatively, you can follow John March Ukraine Junior Rugby on Facebook.


Ukrayinska Dumka


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