LATIN America looks likely to have a presence at Rugby League’s Emerging Nations World Cup, thanks largely to a major sponsorship by Guzman y Gomez which was renewed last week.
While meat pies have long been synonymous with Rugby League, the exotic burrito has helped grow the game significantly since 2013 when GYG became the Latin Heat’s foundation sponsor.
That support was extended into a fourth year on a momentous week which was blessed with huge milestones for Latino Rugby League, including:
- The extension and upgrading of the major sponsorship from Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taquerias, which now has 75 stores across Australia, Singapore and Japan.
- The Latin Heat being included in promising early discussions about the 2017 Emerging Nations World Cup, to be held in Sydney. It could signify the first ever appearance by a Latin American team at a global rugby league tournament.
- The Latin Heat’s youth squad notching a remarkable against-the-odds run to the semi finals of the Harmony Cup. The Heat youngsters were beaten 12-10 by Samoa in the penultimate match in their best-ever display.
- Finalisation of the draw for the Latino Nines tournament on October 22 at Moorebank Sports Club. The event will see senior teams from Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Peru and Uruguay and junior teams representing Latin America, the Middle East and the Philippines.
- Submission of all required documents for Confederacion Argentina de Rugby League to become an observer member of the Rugby League International Federation.
- Renewal of other significant sponsorships with One Big Switch (El Salvador) and Serious About Rugby League (Chile).
Since the support of Guzman began in 2013, Latin Heat has not only been able to start up Rugby League teams for Latinos in Australia and the USA, but also fostered domestic competitions across Latin America.
On November 12-13 the first international game between Argentina and Chile will be played in the Atlantic coastal town of Miramar.
But beyond the global implications of GYG’s sponsorship is the difference it has made to the individual lives of our players.
Here we sample a few of our original players from 2013 and how Latin Heat has impacted their lives.
Sebastian Maya Jimenez – “I arrived from Medellin, Colombia without many English skills, but made friends straight away through Latin Heat. I now have a wife and a daughter here, work as a mechanic for a good company, and get a lot of pride from promoting rugby league for Colombians. I have found some brothers through Latin Heat.”
Jye Sommers (Ortega) – “I grew up in Australia and was disconnected from my Peruvian heritage for a lot of my life. Rugby league has always been a passion of mine and when Latin Heat started, it became a way for me to explore those Latino roots in a way that was welcoming and comfortable for me. I’ve played a lot of footy in my life, but representing Latin Heat has been some of the most fun.”
Jonathon Espinoza – “My life has changed a fair bit these last few years and I can thank Latin Heat for much of that. Being made a co-captain of the team made me assess what I wanted from my life and I’ve now gone back to study and am looking at different career paths. It really has given me extra purpose and direction. I’m also communicating most days with people back in Latin America and helping their plans for domestic football, so I feel like I’m doing something meaningful and helpful.”
Diego Vejerano – “Where I was from in Bogota (Colombia) things could be a bit crazy…you know, gangs and all that sort of stuff. I joined Latin Heat when I came to Australia and, aside from friends, it’s given me discipline and a positive outlook. I’ve dedicated myself to working hard and supporting my daughter back in Colombia. Someone said to me the other day my English was really clear, and that made me extremely proud, as I struggled with that when I arrived.”
Carlos Astorga Gonzalez – “My family went through some tough times in Chile in the 1980s and Latin Heat allowed me to get a few of those issues off my chest. It’s been a platform to open people’s eyes not only to the fact that Latinos can play Rugby League, but that we’re people that will fight hard for what we believe in. I’ve gone from being a player with Latin Heat to an off-field organiser and entertainer, and only recently I’ve returned to Chile to help get things going on the ground.”