End of an era at Rugby Africa as president Bougja steps down

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-07 20:42:12|Editor: xuxin
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NAIROBI, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- Rugby Africa president Abdelaziz Bougja says he will step down at the end of February after 17 years in the role.

The outgoing president said on Thursday that he had accomplished much during his reign, overseeing rugby's return to the Olympics and increasing the number of African countries and regions playing the sport from 16 to 40.

Bougja will preside over the first Rugby Africa Summit to be held from February 27 to March 2 in Marrakech, Morocco, during which time a new president will be elected.

"My successor will inherit a stable and professional organizational structure. We have set out clearly defined plans and priorities. One of them is to promote the participation of women in African rugby. To this end, we propose to nominate a minimum of two women to the Executive Committee, but I hope we will have more," Bougja said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

This summit represents a pivotal moment in the evolution of Rugby Africa. Originally elected president of the Confederation of Africa Rugby (CAR) in 2002, Bougja was re-elected in 2006, 2010 and 2014.

"In 2002, the CAR had 16 members; today there are 39. In 2018, national teams from 24 countries participated in competitions organized by Rugby Africa," said Bougja.

Bougja noted that he hopes to see African teams dominate the Rugby Sevens World Series and the Rugby World Cup, adding that his reign oversaw a considerable growth in television viewership and social media.

"The qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup generated nearly 2 million views on social media. Rugby has become very much a mainstream sport and is [now] widely played in Africa.

"In 2018 alone, we introduced 459,000 young people to the joys of the oval ball. Our sport is the one with the highest growth rate in Africa," said Bougja.

The summit was specifically chosen to be in Marrakesh so that Bougja, a Moroccan, could hand over the baton to the next president in his native country. Tunisia's Khaled Babbou, a member of Rugby Africa's Executive Committee, has been touted as a front-runner to take over from Bougja.

"I am looking forward to this summit, which will be a real celebration of African rugby, culture and diversity. I am also delighted to be able to hand over the torch in my native country, Morocco," Bougja said.