During a recent, and rare, visit to Tripoli a Royal Navy survey ship’s rugby team took time out to build bonds with the Libyans on the sports field.
The HMS Echo rugby team have not played for several years – but they arrived in Libya prepared for the special occasion even carrying a set of rugby posts from the UK.
Rugby had been previously banned under Gaddafi’s regime, however since the revolution the sport has been gaining popularity.
The game attracted significant local interest and much local debate as to the outcome on social media ahead of the game as well as a match report appearing in the Libyan media.
Echo’s squad was made up of six regular players and eleven players who were playing for the first time, or who had not played since school.
The Tripoli squad was a combination of three teams who all play sevens regularly and are working on playing full 15’s rugby.
After a brief training session the game kicked off with the match having to be broken into quarters because of the intense heat. The first quarter set an indicator for how the match would play out with the Libyans storming ahead to a massive 34 point lead. By the end of the fourth quarter the Echo team had begun to flag due to the heat and the fitness of the Libyans with the final score being 43-17 to the Libyans.
Commander Matt Syrett, Commanding Officer of HMS Echo, said: “The Libyans showed that their training and fitness is paying off and they really appreciated the game, as they are starting to prepare for the North Africa League.
“Local interest was high with a number of journalists and a local television company filming the match for their report on the local news.
“Echo’s team showed enthusiasm and pride, despite the final score. Hopefully as the deployment goes on, this early potential will see them grow into a reputable team.”
The visit by HMS Echo is the latest demonstration of UK support for Libyan authorities since the UK supported the Libyan people in the revolution in 2011.
During her visit HMS Echo served as the venue for high-level talks between Chief of the General Staff General Sir Peter Wall and counterparts in the Libyan Armed Forces to discuss the UK’s pledge to train troops as part of this work.