What does the ancient and strenuous British sport of rugby have to do with food, underprivileged children and the equally ancient city of Calcutta, now known as Kolkata?
Essentially a form of football, rugby is said to have started at Rugby school at Rugby, in Warwickshire, England. The game soon spread to British colonies, and the first recorded rugby match in India was reportedly played on Christmas day 1872 between an all-British team and another comprising players from Scotland, Ireland and Wales in Calcutta. Post independence, the game spread beyond the aristocratic clubs but never became a common man’s game like soccer, and remained restricted to the rich and privileged who had access to elite clubs like Calcutta Football Club, Bombay Gymkhana and a few public schools. However, one of the oldest trophies of the game is Calcutta Cup, first contested in 1879 between England and Scotland, and still being played with England as the current reigning champion.
Also Read| Tigers, Tortoises For Lunch: A Calcutta Citizen Group Is Raising Awareness Against Illegal Wildlife Meat
In 2004, John, Gary and Paul, three young men living and working in Kolkata, decided not just to take the game to the common man, but to use the game as a tool for social development. This led to the birth of the Jungle Crow Foundation, a club dedicated to spread the joy of rugby among underprivileged children in the City of Joy. Soon a bunch of young kids—boy and girls—coached by the trio, were cutting through the greens of Kolkata Maidan with the peculiar egg-shaped ball. Today, that team has played the game across India, and won several trophies, including the prestigious Calcutta Cup, Kolkata’s top league competition, four times already. Though John and Gary have moved on, Paul remains a driving force behind Jungle Crows, which not only teaches youngsters the game, but also helps them with education, vocational training and ways to earn a livelihood by partnering with reputed organizations, clubs, business houses and institutes who support the cause.
Apart from skill, a game of rugby is an ultimate test of stamina and physical ability. Proper nutrition is of utmost importance to keep the players at the peak of their fitness and agility. It was with this in mind that Calcutta Foodies Club, a registered charitable trust devoted to the joys of food, decided to partner with Jungle Crows late last year.
The club, which began as a Facebook Group in 2014, now has over two and half lakh members, with a common bond of Kolkata and food. As part of the partnership, Calcutta Foodies Club has committed to provide nutritional breakfast for all the players at the Rugby Training camp for this season. Members of the club served a nutritious breakfast to 200 young aspiring rugby players who had gathered at the winter training camp at Kolkata Maidan December 30. Apart from that, the club will also sponsor trophies and medals for deserving players. Earlier, it had also sponsored a lunch for 80 competitors and medal and trophies to winner and runner team in rugby league competition held December 20.
In 2021, the Jungle Crow team’s jersey shall adorn the logo of Calcutta Foodies Club, says Chandan Gupta, a club trustee. “As the players tear thru the green grass, we will know that this is not only about a game but fighting against all odds and winning in a game called life,” says Gupta. “Calcutta Foodies Club is humbled to be a small part in the journey of the promising youngsters who build their lives to build the nation.”