The summer of 2022 has delivered some brilliant rugby action from thilling conclusions to domestic leagues to brutal international fixtures. However, perhaps the best story to come from the game involves a relationship between two local clubs in Italy and England.
In June 2022, Bolton RFC announced a new “friendship” with small Italian side Briganti Librino RUFC. Although pleasant for the local community, on the surface the partnership did not seem to be massive news.
However, after getting a true understanding of Briganti Librino – the story becomes far more poignant. Librino was founded in the early 2000s and has a variety of teams for different ages, abilities and genders; like many of the local clubs that we love in the UK.
Unfortunately, this small Sicilian club has had a devastating past few years, which for many will be hard to comprehend. In 2018, they had their clubhouse tourched by a small branch of the Italian mafia, and players / staff intimidated.
Then, earlier this year, their newly fortified training ground was once again broken into with many belongings stolen. Over the course of the four years, they have also had their minibus set alight.
It is an extremely sad story for a club which tries to offer rugby as a way out of the criminality and poverty that is rife in their home city.
Meet 𝗕𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗮𝗻𝘁𝗶 𝗱𝗶 𝗟𝗶𝗯𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗼 rugby club from Sicily 👋
The mafia torched their clubhouse, burned their minibus & intimidated players.@BoltonRUFC heard of their plight & agreed to pay for 51 of them to fly over for the trip of a lifetime.
The rugby family 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/2hFtuxLWro
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) August 17, 2022
When Bolton RUFC game across the news about Briganti Librino, they were extremely moved and decided to do something about it. In true rugby fashion, Bolton offered Librino support and a partnership which would give them some much needed happiness and hope.
Last night we welcomed @RugbyIBriganti to Bolton and it was a momentous occasion for both clubs.
18 months of a long distance relationship, celebrated with a warm welcome and a night we'll never forget@lancashirerugby @EnglandRugby#bolton #Rugbyfamilyhttps://t.co/dvuqIhExvy pic.twitter.com/4JVkwsrWRI
— Bolton Rugby Club (@BoltonRUFC) August 18, 2022
Since this relationship was formed Bolton RUFC, have personally paid for 51 members of Briganti Librino RUFC to fly to the UK for a rugby ‘trip of a lifetime’.
The players have had training sessions with Bolton (with a game between the two teams on 20/8/22), and members of the Sale Sharks first team, came to meet the Italians.
George Ford said: “You can see the emotion on their faces. Some of those guys haven’t been off the island before.
“Some have had mixed upbringings and been in a fair bit of trouble sometimes, so for Bolton to put the time and effort into doing something like this is amazing.”
One Briganti Librino player said.
“It’s a very difficult place but we find everyday new stimuli to try to fight this war against Mafia and criminality”.
“We need to change mentality from children and show them the world is different.”