MALI: SBA Mali Centre, Bamako

This centre, located in Bamako, welcomes, together with two coaches and the manager Mandjou Diarra, about 90 children aged from 4 to 14 years old for rugby training, every Saturday (from 4 to 6  pm) and Sunday (from 8:30 to 10:30am). From July 2021, 25 rugby-playing girls aged from 6 to 14 years old attend after-school tutoring sessions every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 4 to 6pm. And since August health checks and discussions about health issues are available for our girls thanks to the presence of a nurse who is present every Saturday at the centre from 2:30 to 4:00pm.

Organisation of the centre:

  • Opening of the centre: Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
  • On-site activities: rugby, after-school tutoring and health

The story of this centre:

During the organisation of a Mali Cup in Bamako, on 29 July 2017, the Hippos XV team of the Bamako Rugby Club contacted the Serge Betsen Academy (SBA). They requested authorisation to offer a statuette bearing the effigy of Serge Betsen; this was to be presented as the Best Player Award at the end of the Cup final.

Since then, the SBA has been in close contact with the Hippos XV club of Bamako, has conducted research on the development of rugby in Mali, has met with HE Mahamadou Nimaga, Ambassador of Mali to the United States, to find out more about his country, and the decision of a study trip was made so that Serge Betsen could see, in person, the situation of rugby in Mali.

Serge Betsen (SBA President) and Odile Prévot (SBA CEO) thus undertook a study trip to Mali from 4 to 8 January 2020. The objective was to understand the situation of young people in Mali and identify their needs, to watch the young boys and girls from the Hippos XV and the Black Angels clubs in Bamako play rugby, and to discuss with the President of the club and the coaches in order to decide on the need to duplicate the Serge Betsen Academy in Mali.

A further meeting with Mr. Arouna Modibo Touré, Mali’s Minister of Youth and Sports reinforced the conviction that an antenna in Mali would be useful in order to convey the passion for rugby and the values ​​of the association to young Malians in precarious situation. At the end of this trip, Serge Betsen received a copy of the Hippos XV statuette bearing his effigy. Well, after all, it was thanks to the statuette that it all started!

In March 2020, the SBA board met to vote for the creation of the SBA Mali.  Unfortunately due to the Covid19 pandemic, the official opening has been postponed to October 2020. Dr Seydou Sow, President of the Real de Bamako Sports Association made a rugby pitch available to the SBA Mali at the Modibo Keïta Stadium, Djikoroni district in Bamako to welcome the Black Angels’ young rugby players. Rugby training has started since October 2020.

An after-school tutoring room offered by the ATC Mali Group was built and installed at the entrance to the stadium to accommodate 25 young girls who have been receiving after-school tutoring classes three times a week since July 2021. This classroom was inaugurated on 20 June 2021 by our board members and in the presence of the Mr. Mossa Ag Attaher, Minister of Youth and Sports, in charge of Civic Education and Citizen Construction did us the honour of presiding over the ceremony.

As for the health component of the SBA Mali, a young renowned obstetrician gynaecologist was in charge of our medical dispensary since August 2021. She was replaced in July 2022 by Aoua Keïta. Our new nurse of the SBA Mali is present every Saturday from 2:30pm to 4:00pm at the centre to offer discussions about healthcare to our girls and medical check-ups and care to the children of SBA Mali.

The SBA is now reaching out to disadvantaged children in Mali. And again, lives will be changed thanks to the great game of rugby! A wonderful story is being written.

Translation : Katy Birgé-Wilson