Rugby lads may have lost every game, but they won hearts in Monaco
These orphaned kids from Durban were given the trip of a lifetime to play against five other countries
Just hours after the under-12 rugby team from Lungisisa Indlela Village (LIV) for orphaned and vulnerable children arrived back from a dream trip to Monaco, their captain said he was still feeling too excited to be tired.
The team was invited to the fifth edition of the Tournoi Sainte-Dévote, a rugby tournament collaborated by the Princess Charlene Foundation of Monaco and the Monegasque Rugby Federation, on Saturday at the Stade Louis II.
The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation extended the invitation to the team.
Twelve teams from United Arab Emirates, SA, Spain, France, Italy, Monaco, Russia, Switzerland and Tunisia competed.
The 11-year-old – who cannot be identified in terms of the Child Protection Act – said when he grows up he wants to be a rugby player. But just not for the Sharks.
“The Sharks aren't that good. I want to play for the Stormers, they’re good.”
The little captain said he was fortunate to have his friends from the children’s village with him on the tour.
But his excitement about the tour was almost eclipsed by the good food they got to sample.
“We were very excited to be there. I want to go to Paris next time. The food is really nice in Monaco and the pudding is not that bad either.
“The princess didn’t look like a princess though. We didn’t talk too much but she looked like a normal person. She’s from South Africa,” he said matter-of-factly.
He said the country wasn’t as different from SA as he expected – except for the beds.
“The beds are more comfier there than at the village. I don’t know what they put in those beds,” he said.
LIV founders Tich and Joan Smith opened the first LIV village in Cottonlands near Verulam in 2010.
Their vision was to create a village environment where orphaned and vulnerable children could be raised.
Today LIV provides shelter for 170 vulnerable and orphaned children in SA.
The village has an early childhood development centre, a primary and a high school, and plenty of after-school activities like rugby.
LIV’s Carita McCririe said the SA team was the only one to come from an underprivileged background.
“We were lucky to get a massive discount from Puma for jerseys and the Unitrade Management Services company from Johannesburg sponsored the entire trip.”
Despite losing all five of their games, the youngsters had the privilege of opening the tournament playing against the Monaco team.
“They have had such an amazing time. Although they lost all of their games, they have received such positive feedback about how well they played and how well mannered they were,” McCririe said.
The under-12 coach, Chester Koyana, took the team to a rugby camp at Hilton College over the weekend of April 12 to 14 in preparation for Monaco.
Koyana played for the Sharks under-20s before a severe injury took him out of the game. He was working as a Sharks Academy coach when LIV contacted him in 2013 to live and work at the foundation with his family and coach the boys.
He now manages the Durban village with his wife Athi.
Koyana said the team gave everything of themselves but were bested by stronger teams.
“Every game was literally a learning curve and we got to see each of their [the boys] characters being tested under the pressure,” he said.
“It is very difficult to describe what such an experience meant to our boys. Every moment was precious. From almost everyone in the team getting onto an airplane for the very first time and heading to Monaco for their maiden trip, the experience of passports and visas, checking in, boarding gates and boarding passes, to finally watching endless movies or play TV games for 12 hours on board.”
He said given the boys’ backgrounds, the chances of such an experience would otherwise be in the realm of miracles.
“It was amazing to see how naturally our boys interacted with kids from all over the world despite their different backgrounds and so they really have shown themselves to be great ambassadors for this country,” he said.
LIV villages are built within a cluster of eight to 10 houses to model African village life. They comprise 96 homes with 33 house mothers.
According to LIV, each home’ fully trained house mother takes care of up to six children through the department of social welfare.