While the Rugby World Cup takes place in England, Morocco has been holding the 2nd World Cup of Sand Rugby
Back in 2014, a town more famous for its dunes, hosted the first edition of Sand Rugby Tournament. For the village of Merzouga it was a whole new direction and so successful that a second edition was planned.
This year, in early October, the second edition was held involving nine teams including Moroccans, Dutch, French, Fijian and players from Pacific Islands such as Papua New Guinea. Morocco is the only country in the world that currently holds a rugby cup on sand.
The playing field is 36m long and 28m wide and the rules have been adapted. Other than the initial kick from halfway, kicking is prohibited. The game is 6 aside and played for two spells of 6 minutes The kit is simple - shorts or swimsuit and bare feet. Rough play results in a couple of warnings and if it continues sees players sent to the sin bin for 2 minutes.
Sand Rugby began with a sports teacher at Tinghir giving an oval ball to his students. Keen to find out more they quickly became rugby fans and eventually went on to become champions of Moroccan rugby.
Since then, the Tinghir Rugby Association has been using the game to work with the unemployed. Dorayde Belbaraka, founder and organiser of the Sand Rugby, says however, that the endeavour is not just about sport, but also promoting the Mergouza region with for a competition combining the spirit of rugby and Berber culture. They have also incorporated some Maori culture with their own version of the famous New Zealand haka!
The event has become international. The association was visited Barcelona in 2015, during a large rugby gathering. The presence of many nationalities in Sand Rugby tournament and the will to repeat the event each year proves the success of the initiative. The media has also became interested evidenced in this report (below) by France Télévisions to it, for their popular "All sport" show.
Find out more at: http://www.sandrugby.org/