Stevo predicts bright future for Pakistan RL
Pakistan Rugby League made their historic bow against the British Amateur Rugby league (BARLA), select team in front of large audience including Rugby Legend and Sky Sports commentator, Mick ‘Stevo’ Stephenson.
The world famous ‘Sport City’ stadium in Dubai was an excellent venue to host this memorable occasion and both teams will indeed look back and can be proud of being part of this unique event.
Although the BARLA select team came away winners of the game, the Pakistanis can be very proud of their achievements and performance in their first ever competitive rugby league outing.
The Pakistani squad was compiled of nineteen players, sixteen of whom were home grown players who had flown in to Dubai from Pakistan only hours before the game took place. All of these players were previously mainly of a rugby union mind set and very little experience of playing any competitive rugby league games.
Kashif Khwaja , Captain of the Pakistan Rugby League team , commented ‘ We as team, are very pleased with our first ever competitive outing. My boys demonstrated character and resilience against a very strong and youthful BARLA select team. We know we have a lot to learn and need to improve in many areas of the game. However, we go away full of confidence and look forward to building on this outing.’
Mick ‘Stevo’ Stephenson, added ‘The Pakistani team competed ever so well and can be proud of their performance. It is great to see our great game of rugby league expanding in South Asia and all credit must go to BARLA and the Pakistanis for making this event happen.’
The next steps for the Pakistan Rugby League is to continue developing the sport within the local schools and universities etc. A schools festival is being organised in late March next year at the Islamabad rugby club and the Pakistanis are already planning to host a visiting team during the winter months in Pakistan.
Hasan Pooya, Chairman of the Pakistan Rugby League, commented, ‘We have a lot of hard work to do behind the scenes and are under no illusions of the challenges and difficulties we will be up against in a predominately rugby union playing nation. However, we have a genuine group of people working together who are keen to see rugby league develop in Pakistan.’
Ikram Butt , BARA MD and one of the founding members of Pakistan Rugby League, commented, ‘To be part of and be able to put my boots back on for this historic event was like a dream come true. Our vision is to see rugby league being played not only in Pakistan but all over South Asia and discussions are already taking place in India, Iran, Iraq and Bangladesh, just to name a few of the countries who have already been in contact.
'There is a long way to go, however, we are planting the seeds and laying the foundation for our great game to flourish around the world.’
Ikram, the founder of BARA, manages Connecting Communities, Leeds Rugby Foundation’s biggest project to date, and was recently awarded a Doctorate in Sport Science by Leeds Metropolitan University for his pioneering sport development initiatives within the UK and abroad.