Fifteen years in the past, Mark Camburn was a Scottish backpacker traipsing round South America. Today, he’s the captain of the Bolivian nationwide rugby team.
He’s a rugby preacher, spreading the good phrase about the sport he loves in a rustic the place, till not too long ago, curiosity was non-existent.
And the North Berwick native’s work in rising the sport’s publicity in Bolivia had an sudden dividend – an opportunity to characterize his adopted nation on the pitch.
“When the nationwide team was being set-up final yr, I figured at 36 I used to be too previous for it,” Camburn instructed the BBC Scotland Rugby Podcast. “But I assume second row is a place they’re missing.
“Then, earlier than our first worldwide towards Paraguay, we had a vote to see who the gamers wished to be captain. I used to be actually stunned to be voted in. I believe it was simply because I used to be the oldest there. I needed to preserve pinching myself to ensure it was actual.”
After a aggressive opening 20 minutes, Paraguay’s superior health in the end instructed, however the results of this worldwide match was irrelevant. This was Bolivia’s first step on the lengthy highway to recognition by World Rugby as a Test nation.
The nation has roughly 600 registered gamers and a nationwide league of eight groups. The logistical challenges of enjoying matches are huge, from the lengthy journeys to the various altitudes that may vary from 400m as much as 3500m above sea degree.
It is a small however dedicated band of these similar to Camburn which can be decided to carve out a spot for Bolivia in the world sport.
“Nobody will get paid for rugby right here,” he stated. “All the gamers are doing it voluntarily, all the coaches, all the employees in the federation are all volunteers.
“Some journeys for league video games will be 12/15/18 hours to play a sport. People take break day work to do it, they need to fund the journey themselves. It’s the love of the sport that retains them going.”
During lockdown, the federation have labored to develop the sport by organising a collection of talks for native coaches, with massive names from the world of rugby sparing their time.
“For me, the massive one was Gregor Townsend, who did an excellent speak on teaching attacking rugby,” says Camburn of the Scotland head coach. “It was phenomenal to have somebody like that, a hero of mine rising up, be part of us to share a few of his data and his love of the sport with us.”
Even Townsend may be hard-pushed to argue his love of the sport outstrips that of Camburn, who manages to stability household work, his job with a charity along with his tireless dedication to Bolivian rugby.
A chunk of his coronary heart, although, stays in his homeland.
“One of my desires can be to carry the Bolivian Sevens aspect over to play in the Melrose Sevens,” Camburn says. “I would not be enjoying in that, however I’d like to be concerned and present the guys round.
“Most of our guys have by no means performed exterior of Bolivia, so to allow them to see what it is like in a rustic with a historical past of enjoying rugby can be an incredible expertise for everyone.”