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.
What he said:
“I hope Puma don’t make condoms.”
Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri made the most cutting remark of the evening when he said the above following the shredding of four team-mates’ jerseys during a group game with hosts France at this year’s European Cup.
Admir Mehmedi, Breel Embolo, Blerim Dzemaili and Granit Xhaka all lost their shirts—literally—in their goalless draw in Lille.
Xhaka had to change shirts twice.
Former England World Cup hero Gary Lineker was equally scathing on Twitter indicting German industry.
This is not the first time the Swiss encountered problems with their Puma tees.
Breel Embolo lost his top in a friendly against Montenegro.
“We have had a few problems with the jersey. The kit manager is not fully ready yet, but we are.”
“There was one batch of material, where yarns had been damaged during the production process, leading to a weakening in the final garment. This can happen, if the combination of heat, pressure and time is not properly controlled in the manufacturing process. All federations have confirmed that they never had any such issues and are very happy with quality, functionality and design of their jerseys.”
Puma supplies shirts to Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland and Slovakia.
Its home rival Adidas was also targeted when its ‘Beau Jeu’ ball designed especially for Euro 2016 burst open in the same match.
“We are looking into what happened. Incidents of this nature are extremely rare.
The reason for the tear has not yet been identified, but Beau Jeu [the tournament ball] has been widely praised by respected experts for its contribution to the exciting start to the tournament.”
What Shaqiri really meant:
“A tear—at the wrong time—makes nine.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“I’ll opt for double protection the next time I play—I’ll wear two jerseys instead.”
What he said:
“He’s come of age I think, and I have just aged. I have never been hit on my head before. “
Adam Gilchrist reacts to being hit on the side of the head by a Lasith Malinga bouncer.
What he really meant:
“If I cannot out of the way of a bouncer anymore, I am surely getting older.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“I’ve been appointed by Puma to test their helmets. Lasith, have another go on the fresh one.”
“For my team’s owner, Preity Zinta and her wonderful inspirational speech, I’ll take all the hits, Malinga!”