Written by Stuart McLennan
El Salvador Rugby League President Daniel Godinez told Chasing Roos the Central American country is currently undergoing evaluation for observer status by the International Rugby League with the eventual aim of the Central American nation becoming an affiliate member.
“It’s (Government recognition) going to be massive for us. It will open the door for us to get into the schools and universities.”
The domestic committee, based in El Salvador’s second largest city Santa Ana, is being led by Hugo Gomez who was successful in helping the national volleyball team achieve higher levels and international recognition.
“We will start in Santa Ana and grow it out from there. With Hugo achieving what he has already over there we are able to tap into a number of talented individuals who are keen to grow the sport.
“We have plans for four teams to operate in Santa Ana in the near future. We already have names and logos for these teams. We plan to start training in July with the aim of playing games at the end of this year, if not early next year.
“What will be important for us is to send over resources such as coaching videos and people on the ground to help them learn the sport of rugby league.”
Officials are optimistic the establishment of domestic activity in El Salvador will take the nation’s international participation to the next level.
“Hopefully once we achieve affiliate status we will be able to take part in the America’s Cup like Chile did a couple of years ago. For us the ultimate aim is to replicate our successful model here in El Salvador,” Godinez revealed.
The El Salvador Rugby League team - known as El Trueno Azu (Blue Thunder) - have played a number of internationals in Australia since 2015 when they represented in the Latino 7s tournament in 2015 and made their 13 a side debut against rivals Chile at Henson Park in Sydney in 2016. The team notched up an 18-10 victory over Peru earlier this year.
Support, Support, Support
Godinez is under no illusions about the support El Salvodor will need from their heritage brothers and sisters in Australia.
“What they need most over in El Salvador is the resources. From a physical nature we need to make sure we provide the teams with the resources to be successful. Over the next few weeks we will be running a number of boot drives and purchasing rugby league equipment.
“Our aim is to send enough stock so the guys over there can be successful and start taking rugby league on in a major way by the end of the year.”
Daniel’s passion for rugby league started early
When his family emigrated to Australia to escape the civil war in El Salvador, Godinez quickly became hooked on the greatest game of all after St George Dragons players, Scott Gourley and Nathan Brown visited his school when he was in year 2.
A lifelong love for, and commitment to, the sport followed, including an opportunity to represent Latin Heat, founded by rugby league expansionist Robert Burgin, and eventually his heritage country of El Salvador.
“I'd never seen a sport that was so hard and played with such pace,“ Godinez said.
“The experience with Latin Heat inspired us to go back to our home countries and start something.”