UK Consul Forms Roatan Rugby Team
Matthew Harper, operations manager at the Roatan Electric Company (RECO) and honorary British consul on Roatan, grew up playing rugby in South Africa since he was seven.
“It’s a very physically demanding game,” he said.
For years he thought about trying to start a team on Roatan. Then one day in February he decided to take a ball out and throw it around with some RECO employees. Then those players invited some friends, and before he knew it, Harper had a team: the Pirates Rugby Club. They have been practicing three times a week behind the RECO offices since February. They even have a Facebook page.
“We’ve got a lot of raw material here,” said Harper at a March 15 practice. “A lot of big guys, a lot of fast guys.”
Harper said 20-24 players were showing up for the practices. He expects the turnout to rise further if he starts playing in Coxen Hole as planned. Most players had never even seen a rugby ball before. Harper had to buy two in Guatemala and order a couple more online from the US to have enough for practices. He said the players were taking to the game quickly.
“We’re right on the verge now of being able to play competitive rugby with some of the other clubs,” said Harper. He met an Irishman, John McCourt, on Facebook who works at the hydroelectric plant near Esperanza, in western Honduras, who had organized a team there. He learned of another team in Tegucigalpa that doesn’t have a coach. “They’re sort of teaching themselves.”
Harper is talking to the other two teams about organizing a triangular tournament, perhaps in April. “The travel fund will probably have to come out of my pocket right now,” he said. But he said the UK Ambassador in Guatemala had taken an interest in the project and “she’s going to provide me some sort of assistance.” South African Breweries, which owns Cervecería Hondureña, is another potential sponsor, he said.
For now, though, the players are just having fun learning the game.
“There’s a lot of ability here,” Harper said. “They’re really enjoying it.”