Rugby was played a bit in the 1960s by expats who worked in military bases or in companies here. It was a hobby for them. In 1998, a group of French and British expats founded a real rugby club, the Tripoli Barbarians. Five or six Libyans were on the team, too. Most of the games were played in Tunisia or in Malta, but we also held a few home games here. We received financial help from various embassies. But until 2009, our sport had no legal standing.
The former government refused to recognise rugby as a legitimate sport, maybe because it was considered to be violent [Editor’s Note: boxing and wrestling were banned during Muammar Gaddafi’s era for this reason]. They only paid attention to football, no doubt because Saad Gaddafi, one of the former ruler’s sons, was a professional player and presided over one of Tripoli’s football clubs. In any case, the old regime didn’t care much about sports in general, save for promoting the athletic exploits of Saad Gaddafi.
"Two players died and 11 were injured during the revolution"
The revolution, of course, affected Tripoli’s rugby players. We stopped playing; two players died and 11 more were injured. Today, those that were injured can’t play anymore, but they help out with administrative tasks in the committee.
We now have 133 rugby players in all of Libya. The sport kicked off in the city of Benghazi in 2007. Now, we need a third city to start playing so that we can create a federation. We’re starting to teach some youths in the city of Misrata how to play.