This year Diani Beach Touch Rugby Tournament celebrates its tenth anniversary and promises to be yet another great sporting event and one of the highlights of the coastal
Bringing together teams from across Kenya, and further aﬁeld, the 5-aside tournament is a fast-ﬂowing and action-packed spectacle taking place in an unrivalled location on Diani's famous white sand beaches. Hosted by the popular Forty Thieves Beach Bar, the tournament takes place on 27th, 28th and 29th July.
The tournament opens at 8 pm on Friday 27th July, with matches taking place under ﬂoodlights over 4 pitches along the beach. The night-time matches are usually one of the highlights of the tournament, providing a great opening extravaganza to kick-oﬀ this fun-packed weekend. The fun and social atmosphere that characterises the tournament is sure to go on long after the ﬂoodlights have been turned oﬀ, with Forty Thieves putting on an exciting line-up to mark the event, including live bands and DJs that will provide entertainment late into the night.
All matches last 15 minutes with the matches on Friday and Saturday run on a league basis, whilst the Sunday games are knock-out style. Games are played to the Federation of International Touch rules, and as the name of the game suggests, touches replace full-on tackling making it a more amateur friendly sport.
As 'time and tide wait for no man', the tournament is run to a strict time-table. Indeed, the logistics involved in organising a tournament on the beach with daily high tides are one of the key challenges for the event hosts. This challenge has meant the organisers have focussed on improving the quality rather than the size of the tournament, and over the years the standard of play has improved immensely to the beneﬁt of all involved.
Saturday's matches start at 9 am and go on throughout the day, whilst Sunday's knockout games are played in the morning, again starting at 9 am, with the tournament wrapping up before 2 pm when the prize-giving takes place.
The tournament tries to be as inclusive as possible with school teams, woman's teams, mixed teams and veteran's teams (40+) all taking part.
And for those who prefer to keep their involvement ﬁrmly to the side-lines, the beautiful location, the rugby talent on show and of course the fun and party-like atmosphere that
accompanies the event are reason enough to go along.
Diani's Touch was started in 2008 by George Barbour, veteran rugby player and owner of Forty Thieves Beach Bar. He got the idea when refereeing a much less rule-oriented version of touch rugby taking place during 'Diani Rules', another annual fun- packed event that takes place on Diani's beaches. The brainwave prompted George to talk to a few of his rugby contacts who all thought it was a great idea. The fact that the tournament is now celebrating its tenth year is proof enough that they were right!
Rugby has always played an important role in George's life. He was ﬁrst introduced to the sport at school in the UK and was soon a regular member of the Kitale team after moving to Kenya. George went on to play rugby for West Kenya, Kenya and East Africa, even captaining the East Africa side on the 4th Tuskers Tour that took place in Ireland in 1972. Nowadays his involvement continues in two key roles – as chairman of the South Coast Pirates Rugby Club and of course playing host to the annual Diani Beach Touch Rugby Tournament.
Beyond the enjoyment of the players and spectators during the event itself, Diani's Touch Rugby Tournament has had other important and lasting impacts. It was the tournament that sparked the ﬁrst real interest in rugby in the Ukundaarea andhelped lead to the creation of the South Coast Pirates Rugby Club (SCP). Touch rugby is seen as a great introduction to the full contact version of the sport, and where better to be seduced by the magic of the oval ball than on Diani's white sand beaches?
Created in 2013, SCP have gone from strength to strength, and have succeeded in putting Kwale County ﬁrmly on the rugby map. Formed mainly of underprivileged people from the Ukunda area, rugby has given all those involved a new focus and opportunities to progress beyond the ﬁeld to refereeing and coaching roles.
Following on from the success of the senior team, the club has developed an active coaching program with local schools, encouraging as many young people as possible to get involved. Talking to George, the pride he feels for the players of the SCP and for the school teams they help develop throughout Kwale County shines through.
The fact that the oval ball is now an integral part of sport in Kwale is one of lasting contributions the annual tournament has brought to the county, and an achievement worthy of celebration in this 10th anniversary year. Looking forward, George hopes that within the next year or two Diani will also play host to an international touch rugby event, and already has the full backing of the FIT. The new event would be run alongside Diani's Touch, so that the fun and social atmosphere the tournament is known for can continue for many years to
As always, ﬁnancing such a professionally run event is a challenge and the tournament is always on the lookout for new sponsors. This year NIC Bank and Tusker will be playing a crucial role supporting the tournament, with Base Titanium providing the ﬂoodlights for the evening matches. It is only with the help of sponsors that we can all continue to enjoy this annual touch rugby treat.
Beyond sponsorship, the best way to demonstrate support for this annual rugby extravaganza is to turn up at Forty Thieves during the event, cheer on the teams and soak up the atmosphere and beautiful surroundings. Food will be served daily until 10 pm, and the bar will remain open until the last patrons decide it's time to turn in. The event is free but there's a charge of 500 KES for those coming to Forty Thieves after 9
More details about sponsorship opportunities, and indeed the event itself, can be found on the dedicated website: http://www.dianibeachtouchrugby.co/