Scottish Rugby ambassadors visit Bosnia & Herzegovina

Scottish Rugby ambassadors visit Bosnia & Herzegovina

​Scottish Rugby has undertaken a coaching and humanitarian visit to Bosnia & Herzegovina, working alongside the charity Remembering Srebrenica Scotland.

Led by ambassador and points’ record-holder, Chris Paterson; Board member & World Rugby Council member Lesley Thomson; Scotland Women scrum-half Sarah Law; and Scottish Rugby Fosroc Edinburgh Academy loose-head prop Shaun Gunn, the party visited Celik Rugby Club in the city of Zenica.

The club name translates to “steel” – and underlines the industrial heritage of the city, as it was from here that the steel was produced to construct the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

At the Celik club, founded 47 years ago in 1972 and currently the country’s top club, they were joined by British Ambassador Matthew Field and his two sons in working with more than 70 children – boys and girls – aged between six and 14 in a fun two-hour coaching session.

Chris Paterson said: “It’s been a wonderful day. It’s been brilliant to come to a place like this – a bit off the beaten track from us in Scotland – but the rugby values and culture are fantastic.”

Two of the age-groups had just got back from winning trophies in competitions in Belgrade in Serbia, a return ten-hour coach trip away.

That weekend, the Bosnia & Herzegovina men’s international team had been in action against Cyprus in a Rugby Europe Conference 1 South match, losing late on 22-23. The result means they will compete in Conference 2 South next season, against the likes of Andorra, Bulgaria and Serbia.

All the Scots were taken by the good technique of the Bosnian children around the tackle area and the fact that they were all keen on the physical elements of the game. “The passing, and hand eye co-ordination was very good for children of that age,” said Sarah Law.

 From left: Shaun Gunn; British ambassador Matthew Field; Chris Paterson; Mirza Oruc from the Celik Rugby Club; and Sarah Law.

British Ambassador Matthew Field said: “This country could be the next Georgia in a rugby context and I am delighted that Scottish Rugby has come to Zenica today.”

Lesley Thomson added: “The opportunity to visit Celik Rugby Club and see our players assist in the coaching of over 70 children, running about tackling, passing, scoring in exactly the same way you see in Scotland was rugby at its best and we hope to build and strengthen those friendships and to assist in the growing of the game we all love going forward.”

During the three-day itinerary, the party, in the company of the Chair of Remembering Srebrenica Scotland, the Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood, also learned from moving testimonies of children of the power of sport.

Items donated to the War Childhood Museum in Sarajevo – scene of the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare, almost four years from 1992 – including balls, bikes and wall-bars, spoke volumes of the resilience of children to play, even when a daily bombardment was going on around them.

The party also visited the town of Srebrenica and the surrounding area, site in 1995 of the genocide of thousands of men and boys, in the worst atrocity on European soil since the Second World War.

Lesley Thomson noted: “It was humbling to be able to pay tribute to the genocide victims during the Bosnian-Serbian war in 1995 from the village of Srebrenica and the surrounding area and to visit the memorial site.”

The party also heard from a survivor of the genocide, Hasan Hasanovic, who is curator of the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial and who has shared his experience with a number of Scotland’s politicians, including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

For more information on the charity and its work please visit its website: www.srebrenica.scot

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