Is rugby the next sport set to take off in India?
One would hope so given that French financial services major Societe Generale announced a long-term partnership with Rugby India to promote the game in the country.
SG will not just be a financial partner but also the title sponsor for the Indian National Rugby Sevens Team’ across all categories — senior, junior and women.
Societe Generale will also support World Rugby’s ‘Get Into Rugby’, an initiative to teach the game in schools and introduce children to the sport.
Puma have joined the bandwagon as well providing kits to the men’s and women’s teams.
All this went down at the Bombay Gymkhana on Thursday the 28th of July, 2016.
The deal is initially for a period of three years.
Rugby is being reinstated at the Rio Olympics this year after a gap of 92 years.
And Japan is set to be the first Asian country to host the World Cup in 2019.
India is currently ranked 12th among 32 Asian countries who take part.
Aga Hussain, VP of Asia Rugby, believes that India can break into the top five in the next five years.
Solar Energy company PROINSO have also signed a sponsorship deal with the Indian Rugby Football Union (IRFU).
Rugby has over 44,000 registered players in the country.
The game was first played in India in 1871.
The national team, however, was not formed until 1998. Their first game was against Singapore.
They were inducted into the International Rugby Board only in 2001.
India have never qualified for the Rugby World Cup.
If rugby in India has a profile, it’s mostly due to Bollywood star, Rahul Bose, who represented India for almost 25 years.
Bose played 20 international matches but hung up his boots in 2008.
On his retirement, Bose said:
“Preparing and playing international rugby takes around two months which I don’t have on me now. I have to travel for film festivals, give lectures, I’m on the board of six NGOs and besides I also have my films. Rugby doesn’t pay you well and besides, the youngest player in the team is 18. I must have played with their fathers in school. I’m 40 now, so the signs are loud and clear that I should quit before I start playing with my friends’ children on the team.”
On what he gained from playing the sport:
“Like how to lose gradually and enjoy the score, not the result; to be a team player, because by nature I am an individualist; if you try to play alone, you are bound to get hurt; and, to have a hot heart and keep a cool head. Today we rank 81st among 110 countries and 50 years later, we will rank in the top 20 position. We will be part of the CommonWealth Games, too, but I will be a grandfather by then.”
Bose, of course, was present at the press conference announcing the tie-up with Societe General and Puma India as evidenced by the post below.
Bose need no longer be pessimistic about the state of Indian rugby.
Things are looking up for sport in India and rugby in particular.