If you talk about sports in Curacao, you talk baseball.
It’s the home of longtime major leaguer Andruw Jones, after all. Or maybe you talk about the wonderful snorkeling and diving trips you can make on this Caribbean island. But there is more. Curacao is the biggest of five Dutch islands in the Caribbean and together they form the Netherlands Antilles. Curacao the largest Island is inhabited by about 150.000 people and they love their sports including, now, rugby.
In January 2009 Arthur Hogesteger, a sports teacher at the College of the Dutch Caribbean returned to rugby. Hogesteger has coaches the Netherlands U15s and U17s in 2004, and had also worked as a part-time Youth Development Officer for the Dutch Rugby Union.
In Curacao he saw the sports-minded and talented youngsters and started up a teachers training college for Sports education. Finally in 2009 he introduced Rugby, slowly at first, but ever-expanding. In May the school volleyball tournament changed to a 60-player 9-a-side rugby tournament. Five weeks later they held a second tournament, with the local Dutch marines taking part.
In September 2009 the Wara Wara Curacao Rugby Club was formed, the “Wara Wara” is the largest bird of prey on the island. With six players with any rugby experience, they quickly expanded to 40 players under the watchful eye of coaches Hogesteger and Quique Sanchez.
They had to work hard to find a training ground that wasn’t gravel, but now play regularly on an artificial turf surface. After months of training they received something of a surprise, as a French naval vessel pulled into the harbor. Pretty soon a game of rugby broke out and Wara Wara faced off with the French sailors in a 12-a-side match, which the locals won.
Last month, the cruise ship de Noorddam played two 7s games against Wara Wara.
It is all very new for the Netherlands Antilles, but organizers are hoping to gain some recognition for their efforts.
They have garnered an invitation for a students team from Netherlands Antilles to participate in 2010 Caribbean students games in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The students (male and female) have organized themselves into the Curacao Students Rugby Club and have over 30 members already.
In December 2009 Wara Wara and the Students joined together to set up the Netherlands Antilles Rugby Federation, NARF, with the intention of joining the North American Caribbean Rugby Association and the IRB.
NARF wants to expand to all islands in the Dutch Caribbean; Bonaire already had their first beach rugby tournament, and St Martin has a rugby club on the French side. And the plan is that Saba and St Eustatius will be targeted with school rugby projects.
It’s a sports-mad culture, but there are obstacles, not least of which is the warm weather and lack of water make growing grass exceedingly difficult. They lack large numbers of experienced coaches and their have only one referee and hardly any equipment. Game jerseys are T-shirts.