UN uses Rugby League in showcase event
Palestinian rugby league has received a major boost with the United Nations increasing its support for the fledgling operation, having chosen rugby league as the only sporting discipline on show at Friday’s Dignity For All festival in West Beirut.
Organised by the UN’s Refugees and Works Agency, Dignity For All echoes the values that have formed the cornerstone of the sport’s development in the Middle East, where rugby league is being positioned as a social tool rather than solely a sporting past-time and the PRL will put on a demonstration match during the festival to illustrate that.
Salvatore Lombardo, Director of UNRWA Affairs Lebanon, said: “Through this project, UNRWA - with the support of the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) - is trying to push for a life in dignity that preserves all human values for Palestinians in Lebanon away from politics.
"This rugby match is an opportunity to use sport as a tool to promote dignity and respect for all.”
Palestinian Rugby League founder Rabie Al Masri is adamant rugby league can play an important role in his compatriots’ lives.
“The goal was to help the Palestinian youth inside the camps reflect the best image of Palestine and stay healthy and fit,” he said. “Sports positively helps build bridges between societies, especially the Lebanese and Palestinian refugee communities in Lebanon.”
Rabie, who is a graduate in Management of Sports Organizations from the Audencia School of Management in France and his brother Ahmed, who has represented Lebanon, have seen notable successes in that process and are currently pursuing, alongside the UN, official sanction from the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Sport in Ramallah for rugby league.
The UN provides support through kit sponsorship and operational cooperation at governmental level and will support the Palestinian RL Under-16s at next month’s MENA Championship.