A meeting with Jerome Alfonsi

At the end of July, we had to say goodbye to Jerome Alfonsi, a lover of rugby, coach of the Rahus (Phnom Penh Team) and PE teacher at Lycée Descartes. He had a key role in the development of sport and especially rugby in Cambodia. He was a significant support for Kampuchea Balopp. Two months ago, he accompanied a youth team for a tournament in Hong Kong, after having trained them with our coaches for two months. It is time to take stock of his mission here, here’s a brief overview:

Can you describe your career?

I have been an EPS teacher since 2003. I started in the western of France, and in Paris. Then, I had an opportunity to move abroad, which I accepted. I lived 4 years in Congo in Pointe Noire, then 4 more years in Nairobi, Kenya and 3 years here in Phnom Penh at the Lycée Descartes.

Can you describe to me your rugby career?

I have an unusual career, being young, I was into football at school, which I played on a national level. I was also a very good swimmer. I actually worked for 8 years on beaches in summer as a lifeguard.

My first real contact with the rugby was in university, then in Paris. After that, everything went very quickly, because I worked a lot on this sport, openings have been possible abroad:

In Congo, I bought in rugby at the school where I worked. We founded the Congolese Federation of Rugby and created the championship, for which we were playing.

In Kenya, in addition to playing locally, I founded a rugby school in the township of Kibera and I set up the national youth U15 and U17 teams.

In Fiji, I managed the academy Nadroga, partner of the Rugby club ASM Clermont Auvergne.

In Cambodia, I coached the Rahus, Rugby Club Phnom Penh. I also worked with the Stade Khmer and the Cambodian national team.

Now here I am in Tahiti, and I am already working with the Rugby federation.

When and how did you come to Cambodia?

I arrived in 2013, following my assignment as a PE teacher.

What is your conception of sport? What do you think is the role of sport in education?

Sport has a central role in my life as in my job and also in my father’s vision. It is essential to your personal balance and it provides social ties in everyday life.

What is your vision for sport in Cambodia?

Sport is not sufficiently developed in Cambodian schools, the current school system is absolutely not appropriate for students regarding access to sport! There is still so much to do.

What have you put in place to develop the sport during your three years in Cambodia, particularly with rugby?

At my level, I focused on the Lycée Descartes, which has the role of school and also a sports club for our students between 3 and 18 years old. We have developed local meetings with NGOs and international schools, and international meetings as inter school competitions like the Asia World Cup, for example.

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Finally, I tried to bring my expertise to the Cambodian rugby and to support its development, despite a lot of difficulties. I got involved with KB, the lycée Descartes and the club of the Rahus that I coached too. I think we have succeeded in our objectives. Those three examples, for me are essential for Cambodian rugby.

Can you describe to me the history of the partnership Descartes – KB? What are the issues and the purpose of this partnership?

The partnership began when I arrived at Descartes. Our relationship grows up, in terms of the numbers of sport session KB coaches laid. They trained children from kindergarten to college. It allowed the KB coaches to work with a different audience and thereby advance their education!

They participated in coaching including U13 girls and boys who obtained the title of champion and vice-world champion rugby French schools abroad.

The aim is also to continue to promote the sport and especially rugby with a local management. KB is totally in its objectives and Descartes participates in a form of outward while contributing to the development of the Cambodian sport.

Can you give me your feeling on KB days which you participated?

These are very amazing days that make rugby live in Cambodia.

They are an extension of what we were doing at the Lycée Descartes 3 years ago. They were held every month and had players from 7 years old up to seniors.

KB, with the support from the French Lycée Descartes and his NGOs partner, is right to continue organizing this event. It helps to give meaning to children in relation to their practices and confront different audiences but can completely inter act together.

These days enable us well to create a team like that visited Hong Kong last month.

I think that KB should even organize one event per month, although this requires financial and human support. We have men, it remains only to boost financial support as it was done for the trip to Hong Kong or to Bangkok.

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Can you give me a feedback on your experience with HK U18, preparation tournament, assess?

I think it’s rare for a team to Cambodia to have had such a rugby preparation. The workouts were scheduled and followed seriously. The training camps on the weekend have created a true group dynamic between the players.

They knew each other but they never had played in the same team. They came from different backgrounds. In less than two months, we have created something very interesting and it is clear that this experience will enrich them in their journey as young boy, as in their rugby.

The tournament was perfectly organized. We played well as we could against very large delegations. Against the two teams with the same level as us, the games we played were very interesting: Mongolia, we were dominating the game and without a mistake of the referee, we would have won this game. Against India, it was tight but they were more realistic than us! However, attitudes have been good, we did it with our weapons. The public, organizers and opponents have respected that!

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What do you think of the work of KB?

The work KB is paramount and essential in the search for youth development through sport. The idea to establish this NGO is amazing and it is actually going in the right direction. The NGO makes up for the lack of Cambodian society and the use of rugby is perfect with its values to the education of children.

I wish to KB to continue to grow and to effectively structure their development objective.

What are your upcoming projects?

I will go at Huahine in French Polynesia, where I will work for a school and I am already working with Polynesian rugby federation. After Tahiti, we will see, even if I have already some ideas …

A big thank you to Jerome for his contribution, support and ideas. It is clear that we will miss him. We wish him the best for the future.

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