MUDDIED rugby boots that have rucked and mauled their way through York’s pitches could be given a new lease of life - thanks to a city expat working in Africa.
Robert Powell, 51, is urging parents and young players in York to help him in his work with teenage teams in Uganda, by donating boots that they have outgrown.
Mr Powell, who grew up in Poppleton and attended Nunthorpe Grammar School, has been working in Africa with the United Nations since 2001 and has been in Uganda since 2009.
He was encouraged out of rugby retirement after losing a golf bet, and now voluntarily coaches teams in Entebbe, on the shores of Lake Victoria, south of the capital Kampala.
Earlier this year, he ran an appeal with Poppleton Junior Football Club and collected 24 pairs of second-hand boots, along with strips from his brother’s club in Nottingham, and he now hopes players elsewhere in York will help kit out the rest of his club.
He said: “I will be back in York in September, again on leave, with a scheduled return back to Africa on 24th.
“Since many parents will be buying new boots for their boys and girls there may be an opportunity for me to get hold of the old pairs.”
He said Entebbe Rugby Club is composed of five sides, a Local Union team known as the Mongers; two ladies/girls teams known as the Sharks, consisting of players from various local orphanages and primary schools; the Whales, a recently-formed under-19s men’s team; and a tag rugby team from local school children who train and play on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
The teams all use a shared football pitch with Entebbe Secondary School and a recent training session had more than 35 boys and men, and more than 20 girls on the pitch at once.
Mr Powell left York in 1983 to join the military and served for eight years before spending ten years working around the world on logistics contracts in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Russia, before joining the UN.
He married in York in 2003 and returns to the city every nine months to see his parents He stopped playing rugby nine years ago but had taken up coaching while in the Army. He said: “Rugby in Uganda is a developing game which suffers from chronic underfunding from the International Rugby Board and Confederation of African Rugby, such that at grass roots level we have to rely on donations, handouts and sponsorship for even the most basic items such as Rugby Balls and boots for players.”
Anyone who can help is asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org