“Converting” the Algarve to Rugby

Meet José Moura – President of Rugby Clube de Loulé

In the heart of the Algarve sits a town that is a sporting haven. Blessed with football, tennis, swimming pools, squash courts and a multi-sports pavilion, Loulé is the living blueprint of how sport can bring positive change to a community. If you ever find yourself passing this attractive town on a Sunday afternoon (and quite frankly, you should), you are likely to hear the supportive cries of a different sport – rugby.

José Moura is the president of Rugby Clube de Loulé. He is also the kind of person that every sports club needs. When I meet him at a home cup game, he has just announced the raffle winners, given the Man of the Match award and has helped behind the bar. All in a day’s work for a man who has been part of the club since he joined in 1976. 

There is a real buzz around the club at the moment. It feels like something exciting is happening.

It is, yes. There is a great atmosphere. The local Portuguese are interested, but also the expats who bring the traditions of the sport. We all share the same passion for rugby. There is a lot of respect for the game, the opponents and everyone involved. Also, the club will be celebrating its 40th anniversary on 29 June.

Rugby is a sport not widely associated with the Algarve. At the moment, Loulé is the only club in the Algarve within the national league structure. Why do you think this is?

In England, in France and in America especially, sport is a way of creating jobs – creating careers. Not in Portugal. Here, football creates jobs and a few careers, but little that offers a job in the sport. There is not much opportunity for a rugby coach or a basketball coach to have any success. Because of this, it is difficult to get sponsorship. They don’t see the return. On Portuguese television, you see football, football and more football. The news is always about the big three clubs in Portugal and the national squad. 

Have you seen any signs of positive change in the last few years?

Most of the other sports are hidden from the press. They don’t have much publicity, but it is growing. Through social media, we are able to create news which is free. We try to make small news every day. But a lot still depends upon the government and the local câmara to invest money into sport. It is difficult.

You have a new coach this year (ex-Scottish international Max Evans). What does he bring to the side?

Max brings hope to the team – a new positive spirit in the training sessions. The players recognise his skills. When you have a good atmosphere in the club they will feel it. He has had an excellent career in rugby, but his first match as a senior player was in Loulé. The club stayed in his heart and he always remembered it. With his name, people also come to play here.

The club has a good stadium with excellent facilities, which must also help?

This is one of the good things about the câmara in Loulé. They have always invested a lot in sport. If you look around the concelho you can find every sport you want. We are starting to have conditions to attract better coaches for the schools. The youngsters need good coaches to become better players, so we are trying to create a good rugby school to help improve our senior team. This is the same for girls as well as boys. We have a South African coach called Scott Butler, who is doing a very good job with the girls. They have just played at an international competition in Lisbon where they were able to train with players from national squads. 

So it seems that you have all the ingredients to compete at a higher level?

In the (third round of the) cup we managed to beat the School of Rugby of Porto who are the team at the top of the division above us. It was a difficult game, but we can say that we are in a position to get promoted to the first division.

You have been at the club since 1976. As an ex-player and now the president, you must have seen a lot of changes. Are you as enthusiastic now as when you started?

My enthusiasm is stronger now. At the time, I was just a kid, but I have learnt so much. There are many people at the club who work so hard and are committed to making this club grow. This is what the club is made of.




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