The World’s Third Largest Sporting Event? You’d be surprised

Behind only the Olympic Games and the FIFA Soccer World Cup, guess what tournament sells two million tickets and captures up to an accumulated four billion TV viewers in over 200 countries?

If you guessed Formula One racing—with Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen sprinting 328-kph to the Brazilian Grand Prix finish line at 12 midnight (RP time) later—you’re, sorry to say, incorrect. The answer?

The 2007 Rugby World Cup. It happens only once every four years and the championship between England and South Africa was aired live over Star Sports just hours ago—today (Sunday) at 3 a.m.

Simon Hoyle, who traces his roots from England but has lived in Cebu for 15 years now, sent me this e-mail co-written by Damien Allison…

“Many of you may have been flicking through the Sports Channels over the past month to find teams of huge men trying to smash each other in a game that resembles American football, but without the pads. Well, this sport is called rugby and the event is the Rugby World Cup.

“You may not know much about rugby but it’s an extremely popular sport in many countries. If watching the Rugby World Cup has piqued your interest, you will be happy to know that it’s popularity does spread to the Philippines, with a team based in Cebu.”

“The Cebu Dragons Rugby Club are members of the Philippine Rugby Football Union and are now on their third year. The Club is comprised of different nationalities with the majority Cebuanos. There are players of all ages and the ladies also have a touch rugby team called ‘The Pink Dragons.’

“Touch rugby is an alternative version of rugby where the contact is minimal (as in Flag Football, compared to the full Gridiron game). There is just as much skill and fun involved in playing this version and it’s a great introduction for a beginner. In fact, the Pink Dragons have a ladies touch event on Nov. 10, playing against the USC, Manila Nomads Bullettes and Alabang Angels.”

Simon Hoyle, who’s played rugby since he was a child, is the current Treasurer of the Cebu Dragons, while Damien Allison is the Secretary. This year, their club joined events in Manila, Clark Air Base, and Bangkok, Thailand. Their newest trophy included winning the division championship at the 2007 Pot Bellied Pigs International Rugby Festival.

Cebuano rugby players have also excelled—many joining the RP national team. These include Edwin Angelo, Donald Bartolata, Jerrylou Branzuela, Nico Corpus, Noel Flowers, Jason Foster, Ricky Gonzales, Richard Mante, Paulin Padayhag, and Michael Sanchez.

What’s the schedule? Plenty. On Nov. 4, there’s the Cebu Rugby 7s. On Nov. 10, the Ladies Touch event. And, on Dec. 2, the Cebu Dragons vs. Manila Normads 15s—all at the Parade Grounds of Camp Lapu-Lapu.

“The highlight of the Dragons’ calendar,” wrote Simon, “is the annual Cebu Rugby Festival, held in time for the Sinulog. The first Festival was held last January, won by the Alabang Eagles. The next one is this Jan. 26, 2008.

“Next year, we are expecting up to eight international teams to participate from Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. We are actively seeking sponsors for the Sinulog 10s Rugby Festival, which will put Cebu on the Rugby Touring World Map forever.”

Simon says: “The Dragons are also seeking the use of a flat grass area (100m x 60m) to use as their home pitch and host international events. And, if anyone wishes to become a club member, to contact Noel Flowers at 09167622235 or Simon Hoyle 3438620 or email simon@iconsdesign.com.”

Rugby.

It may not be the third largest sport in Cebu—but it’s tackled our island. And that’s good news. For as the NFL quarterback Joe Theismann once said, “Rugby is great. The players don’t wear helmets or padding; they just beat the living daylights out of each other and then go for a beer. I love that.”

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