[INTERVIEW] Madagascar: girls empowered through rugby with Terres en Mêlées

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Marcelia, Pela and Sonia are between 16 and 18 years old. In 2014, they discovered rugby thanks to Terres en Mêlées, an association which uses sport as a tool to educate and empower young women. Since then, they have trained several times a week and have become captains of their local teams. At the end of January 2019, they left their Côte Saphir villages in south west Madagascar for a special trip: coming to France to represent their country and their association by kicking off the France-Wales opening match of the Six Nations tournament at Stade de France. Let’s learn more about these three inspiring and likeable women.

 

 

Could you introduce yourself?

Marcelia: I’m 18 years old. I am Vezo [Malagasy ethnic group, Ed.] and I live by the sea. I discovered rugby five years ago. It’s not just for boys. Girls also have things to defend on the pitch.

Pela: I’m 16 years old. I am Bara [Malagasy ethnic group, Ed.] and we make a living growing rice. I have played rugby for four years. I’m stronger now. The organisation has helped me grow. I have travelled and I was even able to spend two months in Antananarivo to take part in selections for the Makis, the national women’s rugby team.

Sonia: I’m 18 years old. I am also Vezo. I play rugby at Mikéa Lodge. I have seen my body change with rugby.

Marcelia, Pela et Sonia

How did your families react to your involvement with the Terres en Mêlées association and this trip?

Sonia and Pela: They are happy as it is an honour for us.

Marcelia: Sometimes my father - he’s a fisherman - tells me that I play rugby too much and that I don’t help him anymore. When I go fishing with him, he says I can’t pull the nets in anymore!

How do you feel when you play rugby?

Marcelia: When I’m on the pitch, I feel strong. I go flat out, no matter my opponent.

Pela: In my head, during a match, I’m there to win. Losing is not an option. I don't care if the person in front of me is big or small.

Sonia: I don’t think so much about whether I am going to win or lose, but I pull faces to scare my opponent.

You train the younger girls in your village. How do you view your role?

Marcelia: It’s good that they see me as a role model. Rugby could give them an opportunity to leave the village, to meet new people. The young people are very motivated. Sometimes they come and wake me from my nap to get training. I love to see them so motivated. Even though I am currently travelling, I know that they are still training.

What would you like to bring back to Madagascar as a souvenir of France?

Marcelia: I would like to bring back all this ice and snow.

Pela: I would like the Eiffel Tower! At least a nice photo of me with the Eiffel Tower and at Stade de France!

Are you nervous about going to Stade de France?

Marcelia: I am proud and happy. I’m not nervous: I am used to busy crowds and matches!

It’s good that they see me as a role model. Rugby could give them an opportunity to leave the village, to meet new people. The young people are very motivated. Sometimes they come and wake me from my nap to get training. I love to see them so motivated. Even though I am currently travelling, I know that they are still training.

Interview Marcelia 2 February 2019. She is training young children in her village