In our focus on the emergence of newer nations to the international scene we look at the history of women's rugby in the Czech Republic. Martin Charvat, of the ARC club, tells is about the sport's climb through tough times and the growing base of club teams in the country.
Image: Ricany Reds and Ricany Blacks women's teams in 1984.
It all started in 1984 in the communistic Czechoslovakia.
Rugby was not supported sport at the communistic times because of it imperialistic origin. The Czechoslovak Rugby Union was established in 1926 but after communistic oppressions in fifties there were just few clubs surviving thanks to enthusiasm of their members.
The rugby community was small but very compact. One part of that community was in any, a small town near Prague.
any was the only really rugby town in the Czechoslovakia. Almost all of the people there played rugby or supported their local rugby club. No surprise then that the first womens team was established there.
At first it was meant as just one single happening during the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the club in 1984. But the first training session, lead by one of the leading personalities of the club Miloslav Kohout, was attended by 17 girls and ladies and the second one by 28! In a short time the team consisted of about 40 women and was able to stand two full teams - Blacks and Reds - of 15a side rugby.
The first official match was played on 30th June 1984 in any with attendance about 600 visitors- a lot for small amateur sport!
The playing time was 2 x 20 min and the result was draw of 4 : 4. During the years 1984 and 1985 the ladies started to play regular matches not only in any, but on other rugby fields and with other occasions as well.
From 1986 to 1987 the interest of the girls and ladies slowly declined because of lack of opportunities to play with other opponents. There were no other womens teams in the whole of Czechoslovakia.
The information about womens rugby from the rest of the world were almost out of reach because of the Iron Curtain.After this first heroic period of the Czech womens rugby there was a long period without any team. There were always few girls playing in the kids teams, usually the daughters of players and coaches, but they had no chance to play as teens and adults.
The first new team was established in 2003 in RC Praga in Prague, called The Lizards. And just few weeks after a few weeks another team was established another at RC Sparta Prague.
This time the girls in local matches focused on 7s rugby which is not so much demanding on large membership. And it was just start of the avalanche. The other teams started to appear one after another. At the moment there are ten womens teams in the Czech Republic.
There are two womens leagues, U19 and 7s and from September a new 10 aside league will be set up. The three times in a row Czech champions are Sparta Prague.
The first match of the Czech National Team was played in May 2004 against Austria in Vienna with the result 5 : 5. The last one in 15a side rugby was played in November 2009 in Prague against a team combined from the players of the Eastern part of Germany and the Czechs won 40 : 0.
The Czech team takes regular part in 7s European Championship Division A (the second tier). Last year the Czech Team fought in the final with Finns for promotion to Top Ten but lost. This year the plan was to fight for promotion again, but the team took only 7th place.
But the popularity of the womens game in The Czech Republic continues to increase and the number of girls and ladies playing rugby grows up continuously every year
Article with help from Miloslav Kohout from Ricany Rugby Club