This is a story, originally run by ThaiAsiaToday.com, about a rugby development initiative established by Eddie Evans, a former captain of Canada, who had a successful career as a rugby professional in Japan.
Nak Suu Tigers: The Way of The WarriorBlurb: Steve Thompson chats to Eddie Evans, former captain of Canadas nationalrugby union team, to learn more about his involvement in a community rugbyinitiative for underprivileged Thai children called the Nak Suu (Warrior) TigersRugby Academy.Steve ThompsonI recently caught up with Eddie Evans, a long-term Bangkok resident, who established asuccessful long-term career playing rugby in Japan after leading Canada in several majorinternational rugby tournaments, including the Rugby World Cup.When the affable Canadian’s rugby career eventually came to a close, he decided to relocateto Thailand, having grown fond of the country after visiting several times on vacation. In hisefforts to give back something to the sport that provided him with so many wonderful timesand the country that he now calls home, Evans helped to launch the Nak Suu (‘warrior’)Tigers Rugby Academy program in 2009, which reaches over 100 underprivileged children inslum communities in and around Bangkok.Steve Thompson (ST): Who was responsible for initiating the program and how did youfirst get involved?Eddie Evans (EE): I initiated the program in 2009 with the support of Sopo Fakaua, whowas working in the slums with his family in order to try and help the communities there. Sopowas the perfect partner, as he shared my belief that we could add value to these kids’ livesthrough rugby and through the mentorship, values and life skills that rugby provides.
ST: What does the program offer the children from a social and sporting perspective?EE: Through rugby, we hope to offer these kids not only an opportunity to play and have funin an organized team sport, but also provide an environment that provides some structure,organization and guidance in their lives. We are there to help mentor them and show themthat there are people around who care. Remember, most of these kids come from verydifficult backgrounds. Many of them are orphaned and have no family support. They are thepoorest of the poor in Thailand.ST: It certainly sounds like a very worthy cause. Who is responsible for organizing andplanning the training sessions?EE: Sopo and his brother, Lea, take care of the weekly rugby training sessions. Theirextensive team of volunteers organize all the coaching, as well as arts and craft-relatedactivities, meals and snacks, along with transportation to and from the slums – its a full daysfor these youngsters and for the organizers, too!ST: Is the program specifically aimed at boys?EE: Not at all, we have many girls of all ages involves as well.ST: Have you identified any major talents during the program?EE: Firstly, let me just say that the strides these young kids have made have been incredible.Remember, just two years ago these kids hadnt even seen a rugby ball before! Recently,during the Bangkok International Rugby 10s tournament (learn more), they were able tocompete and hold their own against overseas school teams that have huge established rugbyprograms with a long history of playing the sport. The raw talent and drive on display wasincredible. Ive never seen kids so hungry to perform and do well.
ST: Where does the funding for the program come from?EE: All our (limited) funds come from proceeds raised from the Bangkok International Rugby10s Tournament and from a couple of key private donations. Actually, the rugby community inCanada has been great and we have had some awesome support from a couple of clubs andsome individuals, who sent over a shipment of used rugby boots for the kids, while alsoproviding some funding to help transport the kids to and from training every Saturday.Currently, it is very tough and we seem to just manage every month. Ideally, we are lookingfor more support from a major organization, which would enable us to include more kids inthe program and also provide a better location, which would allow us to offer a betterenvironment for the kids.ST: Are the sessions conducted in English or Thai?EE: We have both English and Thai speakers in attendance to assist with communication.ST: Is there any link with organized religion?EE: Well, Ark, one of our supporters, is a Christian organization, but we are not specificallyfocusing on religion. This is all about helping these kids out and providing them with somepositive experiences and role models – namely, what organized sport can provide, such as asense of belonging (to a club), along with a group of people who care for them.ST: Could you tell our readers a little more about Sopo and his team?EE: Sure. The sacrifice Sopo, his family and the volunteers make is amazing. My job of tryingto raise funds and showcase what we are doing to the world is actually the easier of the twojobs. To see what Sopo and his team do day in, day out in the slums of Bangkok with thesekids – well, its very moving. To actually dedicate your life to helping the less fortunate is asacrifice most people dont really understand.
ST: As a leading international player, who captained your home nation (Canada), could youtell us how you think Thailand could improve its efforts in terms of the development of rugbyin the kingdom?EE: Firstly, by offering more rugby in high schools, so that rugby can become a recognizedschool sport throughout the country. Typically, rugby is only offered in the countrys mostexclusive private schools. This needs to change so that more schools (and, therefore, morekids) are introduced to the game. The country also needs to improve the standard ofcoaching and increase the number of qualified coaches.Like everything else in the kingdom, it all comes down to the kind of funding available tosupport the program. Now that rugby is an Olympic sport, I hope it will attract more fundingfor rugby in the kingdom. Im a firm believer that, over a period of time, Thailand couldemerge as a powerhouse of Asian rugby, especially in Rugby 7s (a smaller 7-a-side form ofthe game). Who knows, perhaps Nak Suu will be able to provide some future medal winners!Its certainly time to invest in the youth.ST: Finally, feel free to share any updates or ways in which our readers may be able toassist.EE: Any individuals wishing to volunteer at any level would be warmly welcomed. Even if itsjust once a week to help coach or organize the kids – any form of input on this level would begreatly appreciated. Moreover, anyone who can contribute financially to this not-for-profitinitiative can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.ST: Thanks very much for your valuable time.EE: You’re welcome.