Blues play through the night for Um Rio

Thomas Browne reports on a 24-hour rugby session at Iffley Road

Photo: The Varsity Match [Twitter]

OURFC ran a charity 24-hour non-stop rugby event on Friday, the third leg of an iniative that has so far taken place in Rio de Janeiro and St. Albans School, in support of the charity Um Rio – translating as ‘One Rio.’

The charity was founded, and is still run by, an Oxford graduate and Blues Rugby old boy called Rob Malengreau. Football is obviously synonymous with Brazil and it is hard to imagine that ‘the beautiful game’ will be dis- placed anytime soon as the nation’s favourite past-time. However, Malengreau’s charity has managed to use rugby as a tool to bring the children of the favela – the charity importantly helps both boys and girls – together in aid of social integration and has helped to steer them away from the crime and the drugs, which are still all too prevalent.

The charity has created an alternative environment to the gang culture that plagues these areas. In addition, the charity brings together local dentists and doctors to provide these children with a level of healthcare far above anything they would have received if left to fend for themselves.

When speaking to Blues Rugby player Will Wilson and England Sevens player Tom Mitchell, who were leading the event, it was clear how close this project is to their hearts. Mitchell recounted how, when he’d been out in Rio playing for the Great Britain team at the Olympics in 2016, the charity had managed to get tickets for children from the Morro do Castro favela for the Rugby Sevens final.

Wilson, who has also visited Rio and seen the charity’s work firsthand, told of “how amazing an experience being out there was, not just to grow the game but, more importantly, to see how the charity can really change these kids lives.” The charity has so far catered for over 400 children and with the backing not only of Oxford but also now the Cambridge Rugby Club – a contingent from the light blues made the trip out to Rio last year – the future looks bright for the Um Rio project.

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