Voice of Sport

South African icon Chester Williams teaching rugby in Brazil

Brazil is not internationally competitive in men's rugby, but its women's rugby sevens team ranks in the world Top Ten and is expected to win a medal in the 2016 Games in Rio


CHESTER Williams, one of South Africa’s pioneering black rugby stars, is teaching the sport to some 50 youngsters from a Sao Paulo shantytown two years before rugby returns to the Olympics with the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil’s second city, Rio de Janeiro.

The camp in the Paraisopolis favela is part of the “Rugby For Everybody Institute’s” program of social inclusion.

National unity

Williams was a key element of the Springboks’ victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup, an event immortalised in the film “Invictus,” which tells the story of how South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, decided to publicly embrace the sport of the formerly ruling Afrikaners in the interests of forging national unity.

Though the Springboks had included a few non-white players in the early 1980s, Williams was the team’s first black starter of the post-apartheid period and the first to become a star.

Soccer-mad

Williams, who told Efe that he identifies with the kids from the favela, predicts the 2016 Olympics will help rugby take hold in soccer-mad Brazil.

“The sports schools for children are the perfect start for the development of rugby in the country of soccer,” he said on Thursday in an interview at the practice field of the Paraisopolis Lions.

Inclusion

Rugby union, featuring 15 players-a-side, was last part of the Olympics in 1924. The International Olympic Committee [IOC] has agreed to include both men’s and women’s rugby sevens in at least the 2016 and the 2020 Games.

Brazil is not internationally competitive in men’s rugby, but its women’s rugby sevens team ranks in the world Top Ten and is expected to win a medal in the 2016 Games in Rio.

Segregation

Williams recalled spending all of his formative years under apartheid, having to attend segregated schools, “to take different trains (from whites), to go on different streets.”

“The culture of rugby can help the kids from the favela surmount ‘social frustrations.’

“When they play rugby, children are calmer, more respectful, more disciplined and more tolerant,” he said, surrounded by young fans seeking his autograph.

Increase

He cited Mandela’s move in 1995 to “break the barriers” in a bid to unite South Africans of all races and backgrounds behind the Springboks.

Rugby in South Africa remains a largely white sport, though the number of black players has increased, Williams said.

“Currently it is normal for there to be three or four blacks on the teams in the important leagues,” he said.

Legacy

Mandela, who died last December, remains Williams’ touchstone.

“I hope,” the rugby legend said, “that we can continue his legacy. Mandela taught us we need to be tolerant, respectful and to accept one another for who we are and not for the colour of our skin. He was in prison and he managed to be tolerant after two decades in jail. This is the legacy we need to continue in Africa.”

– Reported by Pablo Giuliano, latino.foxnews.com

PROFILE:

CHESTER WILLIAMS
Full name Chester Mornay Williams
Date of birth 8 August 1970 (age 44)
Place of birth Paarl, South Africa
Height 1.74 m (5 ft 8 12 in)
Weight 84 kg (13 st 3 lb)
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position Wing
Provincial/State sides
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1991–98
1999
Western Province
Golden Lions
63
Super Rugby
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1999–2000 Cats
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1993–2000 South Africa 27 (70)
Sevens national teams
Years Club / team Comps
1993–98 South Africa
Coaching career
Years Club / team
2001–03
2004–05
2006–07
2007–12
2012–13
South Africa 7’s
Cats
Uganda
Tunisia
RCM Timişoara