If you do a search online around the culture of rugby, family, and changing lives for the better you will find numerous stories and articles claiming a simple yet forceful statement of purpose – rugby is more than a sport, it will impact positively one’s life.
The reason I start this article this way is not to make the bold claim that the refugee Syrian family, who was sponsored by Markham Irish Canadian Rugby Club (MICRC) member Gareth Callaway, his wife Dayna and their family, owe the good fortune that saw them out of Syria and into Canada to the sport of rugby. Only that Gareth and his family being immersed in one rugby community or another for much of their lives are using this ingrained sense of community, and rugby culture to help Tamador and her five children acclimatize to their new home and develop a sense of belonging in Canada. Heck, they can’t help but be involved in rugby in some fashion in Gareth’s home whether it is putting up with the constant flow of Rugby old boys that come over to share a pint and watch the Six Nations with Gareth (a former referee) or listen to the Callaway kids talk about their own rugby games and experiences given that Matthew, Rachel and Ethan all play themselves.
As Tamador’s children began to learn the language and stories about playing soccer the year before in both the streets of Gaziantep in Southern Turkey and prior to fleeing, the streets of Aleppo in Syria came out, the Callaways knew they had to get the kids involved in something that would keep them busy and energized but allow them to start doing what kids do best – play and make friends. Gareth brought Ahmed Nour and Mohammad to MICRC and signed them up to play U10 and U12 rugby.
The kids are loving it, making new friends and the warmth and family of our rugby club has absorbed two more into its fold. Friendships that these boys will make through playing rugby will be integral in providing support and helping them overcome culture shock, acclimatize to their new home and allow them to be children and mend any damage that might have been caused seeing and experiencing the horrors and tragedies that they have spent the last few years enduring and ultimately escaping. It will ensure that they are exposed to positive role models and influences at a time when they are most vulnerable.
We posted a photo of them on Instagram and tweeted it out as well. The response from the rugby community worldwide has been overwhelming. Other Rugby Clubs from around the world have re-tweeted, commented, and favourited the photo. International favourite and World Cup referee Nigel Owens re-tweeted his support. Rugby Canada and Rugby Ontario posted and re-posted on various social media sites. But one individual with a massive heart stuck out.
Brett Beukeboom of the Canadian National Team and of the Professional side – Cornish Pirates of the Greene King IPA Championship did the entire above social media thing but he went a step further. Brett emailed the club and asked if we would allow him to come and visit the boys at the club during a practice so that he could present them one of his game worn jerseys. It might not seem like much to the boys who have barely touched a rugby ball but the significance of Brett’s intention and his gift of the jersey he wore this year playing against Georgia will resonate eventually and it will develop into a shared important memory for both Brett and those boys.
Brett is an incredibly tough and giant of a man but the shine in his eyes when he met those two boys and listened to some of the stories Gareth had to tell him about the life their family have endured showed he is as one of us all. His heart spoke and he reached out without any ask from anyone. That is the kind of person that Rugby Canada, Rugby Ontario, The Lindsay Rugby Club, The Cornish Pirates and the rugby community should be incredibly proud of. Not only is he a stellar competitor on the field but he is more than just that. He is a classy, compassionate, kind and caring person and one that we all wish we could strive to be like.
Brett, on behalf of the Markham Irish Canadian Rugby Club, thank you for sharing your time and your kindness with Ahmed Nour, Mohammad and all the Junior rugby players that you visited. Thank you for reinforcing the model of a rugby player being more than just an athlete and thank you for so ably and honourably representing our country on the pitch. We couldn’t ask for anyone better. You have added to your fan base and we now consider you part of the Markham Irish Canadian Family.
From Syrian to Irish Canadian, rugby has started to make a positive impact.