One hundred brand new rugby league balls are on their way to Brasil to assist the country’s preparation for a debut appearance at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
The first-ever bulk purchase of balls with the official Brasil Rugby League logo has been made possible by migrant Marina Abreu Silva, whose company Tagarela Intercãmbios has operated in Sydney, Australia since 2014.
A passionate advocate for gender equality and women in contact sports, Ms Abreu Silva has been a foundational supporter of Brasil’s rapid ascent to World Cup contention in what is essentially a new pastime for the nation.
As the first Latin American team of any description to qualify for a Rugby League World Cup, Brasil will have many hurdles to overcome – a key one being a scarcity of rugby league balls.
“In Australia you can find a rugby league ball at a petrol station or a convenience store, but in Brasil it is very rare to encounter an oval-shaped ball,” said Ms Abreu Silva.
“Sometimes you will not even find one in a specialist sports store. And if there is one in stock, chances are it will be an American gridiron football or a rugby union ball, which has different dimensions.
“The balls we are sending to the female athletes in Brasil are going to be Steedens, the brand that is used at National Rugby League (NRL) level by the professionals.
“If Brasil is to compete with the best, we have to prepare like the best.”
Because Ms Abreu Silva’s company Tagarela specialises in migration and education matters, she is acutely aware how important sports can be to developing a sense of belonging and self-identity.
As well as giving Brasil’s athletes a chance to compete on a world stage, participation in rugby league can help the emerging nation form closer ties with the sport’s strongholds in the Pacific and Europe.
“I watched a documentary the other day that talked about ‘basketball diplomacy’ between the USA and North Korea, and before that there was ‘ping-pong diplomacy’ with Asian nations,” Ms Abreu Silva said.
“Maybe we are on the verge of ‘rugby league diplomacy’, creating greater cultural ties and understanding between Latin America, Australia and the Pacific.
“The number of Latin Americans in Australia, particularly Brazilians, has grown seamlessly in the past two decades and rugby league can become an important addition to the interests we share.
“We already love the beach, barbecues, travel and nature, so it’s a good addition to those commonalities.
“Social causes and multiculturalism are two topics close to my heart.”
In addition to establishing Tagarela, Ms Abreu Silva is a founder of Fruits From Brazil, a non-profit organisation which champions LGBTQI+ causes.
Brasil is home to more than 20 million people who identify as being LGBTQI+ and had more than 50 transgender people run for political office in 2018.