Brazil casts global net to fund rugby players to fill Olympic sevens teams
2016 Olympic hosts looking for players to fill sevens teams for sport's games debut
Associated Press in Sao Paulo
Brazil is sending a message to everyone who plays rugby out there: You want to participate in the Rio Olympics? Come talk to us!
Hoping to put on a good show when rugby sevens debuts in the 2016 Games, the Brazilian federation has announced that it will go hunting for players abroad, looking for anyone with at least some experience in the game and a Brazilian link that would allow them to represent the country.
The federation this weekend is launching a worldwide campaign - entitled "Brazilian Rugby Players Wanted" - to spread the word, hoping to find at least a handful of players who can help turn the national team into a more competitive squad by the time the Olympics arrive.
Brazil has very little tradition in the sport and has never achieved significant results in top international competitions but both the men's and women's national teams automatically qualify for the 2016 Games as hosts.
Rugby officials sent a letter to international federations, international clubs and rugby publications to try to attract players who may not be able to play at the top level in their countries but who could be useful to the Brazilian team.
"If you fulfil the criteria [to become a Brazilian citizen] and believe you have the athleticism, skill, passion and drive to represent Brazil, then we want to hear from you," says the letter being distributed to those involved with rugby across the globe.
"Be part of the dream," it adds.
The local federation said it already knew of a few players who were in position to seek citizenship to join the Brazilian team but it wanted to reach others who might not be aware of the opportunity.
"We want to make sure that everybody knows that we are seeking these players," said Sami Arap, the president of the Brazilian rugby federation. "And I have no doubt that soon we will start receiving e-mails of players and of agents offering players wanting to come to Brazil. I'm sure that the allure of playing in the Olympics will help us attract a lot of players."
Arap said that he hopes to bring about six players for the men's squad and another six for the women's.
"We have a long-term goal to develop the sport," Arap said. "We are working hard to make sure that one day rugby becomes a popular sport in Brazil, second only to football. But because the Olympics in Rio are only three years away, we have to rush things a bit, and that's why it's so important to start bringing these players."
There is no professional rugby league in Brazil. The country has only about 10,000 registered players and the sport is played mostly in clubs and universities. Brazil's women's team has had more success and is usually among the top 12 nations in the world, while the men's team is near the top 30.