Garry Schofield OBE has been appointed as the director of rugby for a forthcoming British Asian Rugby Association (BARA) tour to Italy.
The BARA team will take on the Federation Italian Rugby Football League (FIRFL) XIII in Rome on May 16.
The FIRFL are the ‘rebel’ Italian body, who continue to carry out development work in Italy despite a lack of official recognition.
The two teams will play for the White Ribbon Trophy. An audience with the Pope is also in the process of being organised for the teams.
The match and possible Papal meeting forms part of BARA’s support for the White Ribbon Campaign, a global initiative made up of men speaking out against violence towards women and girls, which also looks to encourage interfaith dialogue.
The BARA team will wear a special jersey, and have been working closely with the FIRFL to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the White Ribbon campaign.
“I’m honoured to be involved in this pioneering tour to a nation that is fast developing in terms of rugby league,” said Schofield, an iconic player for Leeds, Hull FC and Great Britain.
“We will be promoting some very positive messages wherever we go that only increase the importance and relevance of such a venture.”
Ikram Butt, BARA founder and former England Rugby League international, added: “We’re delighted to have such a well known rugby league name as Schoey leading such a pioneering tour and are actively putting in the work behind the scenes to gain an audience with the Pope.
“Pierluigi Gentile, secretary general of FIRFL, has been instrumental in the development of the thirteen-a-side code in Italy and has overseen a significant increase in players from 300 to over 4,000 active players over the past five years.
“His stewardship has also led to the introduction of a championship league along with the Italian Cup and has been the driving force behind FIRFL’s efforts to become affiliated to CONI, the Italian National Olympic committee which is anticipated to be granted by the end of the year.
“Both the hosts and BARA will unite to promote the shared values peace, tolerance and community harmony through sport and those will be the messages we could take to the Vatican.”
Included in the tour party will be Chris Green, founder of White Ribbon UK and a UN Ambassador and Qari Asim, recently awarded with an MBE and an honorary doctorate for his ground breaking services in enhancing community relations and work in engaging young people.
“As part of the rugby development tour, Qari Asim will deliver a seminar on the benefits of sport and faith with Chris Green also delivering a seminar on the White Ribbon Campaign,” Butt added.
Pierliugi Gentile is also delighted that the tour is taking place.
“We are delighted to be hosting BARA in Rome this May to play against our international team in what promises to be an auspicious occasion,” he said.
“FIRFL share the same values as BARA in using the sport of Rugby League as a social means to engage with the wider communities and address important issues such as the White Ribbon Campaign.”