African amateur football league, Rhino Cup Champions League, have been nominated for Grassroots Organisation of the Year at the BBC’s Green Sport Awards, 2023.
Joining in the nomination celebrations are Coleg y Cymoedd’s Creative Industries department, who developed the League’s rhino mascot, ‘Davey’, to educate and entertain thousands of children during the cup’s 2022 season.
In its Green Sport Awards, BBC Sport celebrates the good news – the athletes, former athletes and organisations working hard to enact and inspire change.
Rhino Cup Champions League was nominated for ‘its impactful work in using the popularity of football to help local communities feel better connected to wildlife conservation and learn about the impacts of climate change’. [The league] is used ‘as a vehicle to inspire and empower participants to actively engage in the conservation cause.’
At the heart of this project is Davey, the Rhino mascot created by Coleg y Cymoedd’s Creative Industries department and Wild Connect, who helped to engage thousands of children across Africa in this critical cause.
Creative learners spent six months tirelessly developing the six-foot rhino to kick off the 2022 Rhino Cup Champions League and educate rural Africa on the horrors of rhino poaching. The mascot was flown out to Mozambique to lead the campaign and through the course of the season has seen whole villages brought together.
Founded in 2016 by animal charity, the Wild and Free Foundation, which works to protect wildlife and habitats in Africa, the Rhino Cup Champions League was created after representatives from the foundation travelled to rural villages in Mozambique, where a high percentage of young men were being arrested or killed after being involved in poaching rhinos.
With these villages bordering the Kruger National Park – home to 85% of Africa’s rhinos – the charity wanted to find out directly from the villagers what could be done to prevent poaching. Following feedback from the community members, the charity organised the football league to keep the men of the villages busy and motivated.
Since the Rhino Cup Champions League was introduced, the villages in Mozambique have seen a dramatic reduction in the number of deaths and arrests of young men due to rhino poaching, decreased school dropouts and teen pregnancies.
With over 90,000 football game spectators between 2019 and 2022, entire communities been uplifted through the skills and job opportunities and friendships created through the League.
Delighted at the news of the League’s recognition, Alistair Aston, Prop Making Lead at Coleg y Cymoedd commented: “We’re so proud to have contributed to such an important cause. Our aim was for the mascot to used as a fun, educational tool, helping rhinos appear less aggressive in the eyes of the local communities.
‘Davey’ the Giant Rhino from the Welsh valleys now serves as a symbol of the League’s mission to raise awareness about rhino conservation and protect its species from extinction. We wish all the best to the Rhino Cup Champions League with this incredible recognition.”BBC Green Sport Awards winners will be announced via the BBC Sport website on Monday, 2nd October.
Update: Tuesday, 3rd October 2023
The winner of BBC Green Sport Awards Grassroots Organisation Award 2023 is Rhino Cup Champions League.
The nominations committee said: “The Rhino Cup Champions League is a very different approach at raising sustainability awareness, but it is a very successful one. It has already grown as a competition to a football league brought to you by your local rhinoceros.”
Rhino Cup Champions League co-founder, Matt Bracken, commented: “The Rhino Cup Champions League came from asking: ‘How can we help stop young men from going into the wildlife reserve and risking their lives and the lives of animals to kill that animal for profit?’ It is a football league brought to you by your local rhinoceros – and that is bringing so much. It’s bringing compassion, happiness, hope and love. It was the communities’ idea and that’s why it’s a success.”
Coleg y Cymoedd would like to extend their congratulations to the Rhino Cup Champions League.
To explore Creative Industries courses at Coleg y Cymoedd, visit: www.cymoedd.ac.uk