Africa’s rugby chief, Herbert Mensah, says the sport should be taught in every African school, going as far as to claim that it has the power to solve social and political problems.
In March, Mensah was elected as the new president of Rugby Africa, the administrative organisation which runs the game on the continent.
He believes it can be a “way to unify and bring together” people in regions affected by conflict and instability.
“The wonderful values of rugby are better than that of football or anything else,” he tells BBC Sport Africa.
“The solidarity, the respect, the working together – all the values that encompass rugby surely should be taught in schools.”
Mensah, a Ghanaian businessman who was formerly the boss of Ghana Rugby and chairman of Ghana Premier League football club Kumasi Asante Kotoko, is already enacting a plan to bring rugby and politics together, reaching out to the European Union for potential funding while having met with the African Union (AU) in a bid to build a “strategic” relationship.
“We understand that the AU has no money for us. What we’re saying is, introduce it as part of the curriculum.
“You’re dealing with nutrition, you’re dealing with lifestyle – all the things that say we care for our children.
“Then we can take that to governments and say, ‘look, the AU has sanctioned it [rugby in schools]’. We’re trying to grow the game here.”
Referencing countries from the Sahel region including Burkina Faso and Mali, which are struggling with Islamist insurgencies, and Niger, which recently underwent a coup, Mensah says Africa is “on the point of evolution” and that the rest of the world has been “caught with their pants down” by not understanding the problems of young people.
“They’ve been caught completely unawares and, quite frankly, don’t know what to do about it,” he states.
“Now is the time for us to invest and say, ‘we’re going to play matches between Niger and Ghana, Burkina and the rest’. Nobody is going to stop a young kid from throwing a ball around, knowing you can cross a border without worry.
“There’s somewhere in rugby for everyone. Surely, the game is the way to unify.”
When pressed on whether such an aim is truly realistic, the 62-year-old insists “it must be”, adding that he wants to see the “tenets of rugby” permeate society.
BBC Sport Africa