A Touch of Hope!

Dec. 4, 2013 @ 13:45 UTC

Luxembourg's fastest growing sport has been making great strides in one of the toughest places in the country thanks to a project launched by a young teacher.

Luxembourg's fastest growing sport has been making great strides in one of the toughest places in the country thanks to a project launched by a young teacher.

For the last three months Italian national Edouardo Angioni, 25, has been teaching touch rugby to inmates in pre-trial detention at Schrassig prison.

The programme was funded by the "Service National de la Jeunesse" with the support of the European Commission and culminated in two formal games against national club Luxembourg Touch, which the inmates' team won.

Edouardo began the project after completing a work placement at the prison, looking into the activities offered there. He soon grasped the challenges facing inmates awaiting trial, some of which stay there for up to two years but have little contact with the outside world.

As captain of the national men's open Touch team, Edouardo made the decision to share his sporting passion with people in the prison.

He approached the prison's head of sports services Matyas Zlatnik and forged a plan to offer touch training three times a week in sessions lasting two and a half hours.

Edouardo then secured 5,500 euros in funding to cover travel and pay for a kit and, with the help of two security guards and Matyas, the first training session was held in August this year.

"I realised it would be a long process but I already spotted the few people who would make it to the end without any disciplinary issues," Edouardo said, reflecting on the first training session.

Over the three months the project faced some discipline-related challenges. "People didn't like losing face. The guys who fought couldn't stay away from trouble. Those who couldn't evolve with the team or take criticism, one by one they dropped out," he said.

Edouardo, however, understood the pressures facing many of his players and frequently visited them in their cells to discuss their problems.

"The people who made it through to the end showed how incredibly they can turn their back on all this (prison) philosophy," he said.

Gradually, Edouardo brought along members of Touch Luxembourg to help coach the inmates. This, he said, was a real turning point for the prisoners, who had had little contact with people from outside the prison or legal system, up until then.

"That's important in Schrassig where there's not a lot of contact with the external world and that is what we need to focus on. The fact we brought freshness from the outside, fun, jokes and basically people loved it," he said.

The project culminated mid-November with a game between players from Luxembourg Touch and the by then six-strong prison team, dubbed The Barbarians.

Afterwards, the Barbarians' captain gave a touching speech in which he thanked Edouardo for a "fantastic and rewarding three months", saying the project had given him "something to look forward to again".

Edouardo said he almost shed a tear of pride when he heard this speech and he has every intention of keeping in touch with the players when they are released.

"I want to think there's something personal and proud attached to this as well. I can't wait for them to come out so we can grab a pint at the pub together," he said.

In addition to the good feedback, a few have expressed an interest in playing rugby and joining clubs once released, a step which Edouardo believes will help them put this phase of their lives behind them.

"The players learned skills they can use to join a club. That skill can open doors they never opened before, to a different network of people, nice people, who want to integrate young people into their club and play in mixed or men's teams."

Furthermore, the young coach hopes that others will be inspired by what has been achieved to take new projects to the prison, which may give the inmates something to look forward to again.


Courtesy of: http://www.wort.lu

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