RUGBY

Botswanan asylum seeker Phenyo Ketsitlile lines out for Roscrea RFC

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Botswanan asylum seeker Phenyo Ketsitlile lines out for Roscrea RFC

Phenyo Ketsitlile from Botswana pictured with Roscrea RFC head coach John Maher.

On Sunday, December 8 the Roscrea RFC senior team played and were victorious against Athboy RFC in their scheduled division three Leinster League fixture. At the halfway mark of the season they enter the Christmas break sitting top of the league having won all nine of their scheduled games which is just rewards for their endeavours this season. However, the result on Sunday was not the most interesting aspect to this game. During the second half Roscrea RFC introduced a newly-registered player by the name of Phenyo Ketsitlile.

Phenyo or Rob as he is now known by his new teammates is from the African state of Botswana and has come to Ireland as a guest of the state. Indeed, Phenyo Ketsitlile is seeking asylum while living in direct provision in the small County Offaly village of Dunkerrin. He cannot legally work, but Phenyo Ketsitlile wants to contribute to and find a way to integrate into Irish society. He hopes that Ireland will some day be his home.

This week Roscrea RFC senior team head coach John Maher recalled in detail his first contact with Phenyo, remembering the phone call and interesting request to join the team. Mr Maher immediately offered to collect Phenyo and drive him to training himself.

“When he arrived that first night it was a bit of a novelty for the other players, but they very quickly discovered that Phenyo could actually play,” John Maher explained.

“They welcomed him with open arms, the lads were brilliant and were delighted to meet him and hear his story.”

Without hesitation the team embraced and encouraged the new addition with players providing Phenyo Ketsitlile with gear, organising transport for him and looking after any costs incurred. Hopefully, Phenyo is the first of many who will discover that playing rugby is a possible door that opens a path to integration. Roscrea RFC and their senior coach John Maher are a beacon for that admirable philosophy and as such they deserve universal credit for their actions.

Roscrea Rugby Club holds the unusual distinction of being geographically located in the province of Munster, but plays its rugby in Leinster. The formation of the club dates back to 1940 and since then it has been an important part of the fabric of the local community. The playing pitches and clubhouse are situated within walking distance of Mt St Joseph Abbey and the Cistercian College for boys. The club caters for boys and girls from the age of six to eighteen years of age while also fielding a men’s senior team and is a hive of activity on week nights for training and every Sunday morning when the pitches are filled with the energetic endeavours of young children excitedly playing rugby.