In Ethiopia, athletes are more often associated with the graceful, wiry figures of the nation's long-distance running legends than with the heavyweights of international rugby.
But the enthusiasm generated by the rugby World Cup in France looks set to allow the sport to take root in unlikely places, even in the only African country never colonized by Britain, France or any other European power.
Out of the 35 players who gather each week in Addis Ababa, coach Fabrice Houpeaux's squad boasts plenty of pacey wingers but suffers from an obvious dearth of beefy forwards and muscular centers.
"It's a very demanding sport, it needs a lot of time spent in the gym to improve stature," admits Chris Gabresi, a teenager from the Ethiopian capital who likes to play on the wing. "For us Ethiopians, the idea of playing professional rugby at the moment is just out of the question."
The sport is starting from scratch in Ethiopia. It has yet to have its own pitch with posts and is up against the phenomenal popularity of the English and other European soccer leagues.
"The only way to improve the status of rugby in the country is to make children play and have sufficient instructors," said Houpeaux, who coaches Ethiopia's only club alongside a New Zealander and another Frenchman.
Blanket coverage by the South African satellite network received in Ethiopia has spurred unprecedented interest for rugby in the Horn of Africa nation.
As a growing number of spectators are gathering in the stands to watch training sessions, newcomers have shown interest in joining the club and the players expect their ranks to swell as the World Cup reaches its climax.
"The whole atmosphere is friendly and encouraging, we are always dedicated when we arrive for our training sessions," 16-year-old Selam Nadew said.
"We will probably have more players next time but they have to be committed as well," Chris Gabresi added.
Balls, kits and other equipment have been provided by France as part of an initiative called Rendez-Vous 2007 launched in the run-up to the World Cup which also sent two Ethiopians players to France to watch the games.
The coaching staff hopes the World Cup and a bit of help from major rugby nations will take the sport to a new level.
"Setting up a federation is another major step because a body is needed to overlook from the top," Houpeaux said.
"It's just a start," he said, while keeping an eye on the TV screen showing the latest World Cup game. "I've been here for two years and our students have shown a lot of improvement."
Houpeaux and his colleagues are already busy inviting teams from more established rugby nations such as Kenya and Dubai and predicts a federation would bring Ethiopia into the oval world.
"With all this achieved, there is no reason not to see Ethiopia competing in regional tournaments in just a decade," he said.
The NBA said was re-evaluating its training program in China following allegations of abuse of young players by local staff and harassment of foreign staffers at a facility in Xinjiang. The comments come after a report by ESPN that quoted unnamed American coaches as saying that Chinese coaches hit young players. One American coach who worked at a camp in Xinjiang complained of harassment by local police, the sports network said. “The allegations in the ESPN article are disturbing,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said in an e-mail statement on Thursday. “We ended our involvement with the basketball academy in Xinjiang in June
Taiwan Steel on Sunday grabbed three points with a narrow 1-0 win against Hang Yuan FC, to move into the No. 2 spot on the Taiwan Football Premier League (TFPL) log, while Taipower FC beat NTUS 2-0 to maintain first place. Taking advantage early in the match of opposition defenders who had not yet settled down, Taiwan Steel’s attacking trio of Wu Chun-ching, Marc Fenelus from the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Benchy Astama from Haiti pushed forward with good passes. After only one minute of play, Fenelus dribbled from the right flank, feeding a short pass inside the penalty area to
‘CRIMINAL ACT’: The UCI said it ‘strongly condemns’ Dylan Groenewegen’s ‘dangerous behavior,’ which left Jakobsen in critical condition and injured other cyclists Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was in a coma on Wednesday, in “serious” condition, after he was thrown into and over a barrier at 80kph in the conclusion to the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne. Footage showed 23-year-old Jakobsen, of the Deceuninck-Quick-Step, racing elbow-to-elbow with fellow Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen of Jumbo-Visma as both men frantically tussled in a tight sprint to the line in Katowice. However, Jakobsen came off worst, somersaulting over the barriers before colliding with a photographer after Groenewegen had veered suddenly to the right, squeezing his rival into the security wall. “His condition is very serious. His life is
LEAVING IT LATE: Rakuten added late runs last night to add to wins on Wednesday against the Brothers and the Lions on Friday that went down to the last batter The Rakuten Monkeys rallied to post three late runs for another close win, prevailing 5-3 over the Uni-President Lions yesterday as Taiwan’s second-half CPBL season got started with lower scoring output, but exciting finishes. It was Rakuten’s third win in a row. In two games this week, they seized victory in dramatic fashion with their last at-bat and have drawn level with the CTBC Brothers on top of the table after yesterday’s results, 0.5 games in front of the Fubon Guardians and 1.5 games ahead of the Lions. It was tied at 1-1 early, with Rakuten hosting the Lions at the Taoyuan Intenational