May 22, 2022 5:37 am

Alfie Pugsley’s story: world rugby’s poignant reaction to discrimination against a 12-year-old boy

Your life will no longer be the same. In another time, perhaps it could have been another case of bullying, which would have been hidden in pain. But the same devastating power that social media can have, this time turned into a poignant worldwide reaction to give support and strength to Alfie Pugsley, a 12-year-old boy who plays in Oakdale, Wales, who was discriminated against for his physical appearance and became a symbol of rugby.

It all started with a discriminatory comment about a photo of the child. His dad, Mark, expressed himself on Twitter and added a photo. “I had to delete a Facebook post because an idiot commented that my son is too old to play under 12 and unhealthy. If only people knew how hard he works to get in shape and how low his confidence has been. Don’t worry Alfie, I’ll always be your biggest fan.”

While his post quickly went viral, what happened in the next 48 hours was unexpected and exciting. Players, coaches, journalists and personalities from all walks of life began to replicate Mark Pugsley’s post rooting for Alfie.

Alfie with his under 12 rugby friends from Oakdale, Wales

The news of a boy studying at Islwyn Primary School, left the British Isles and reached the whole world. The historic player of the All Blacks Jerome Kaino He texted the boy. “Alfie: Keep up the fun and work hard. Our beautiful game is for ALL genders, people from ALL walks of life, and also ALL shapes and sizes. Keep that smile on your face and keep up the impressive work you do”, wrote the third row, two-time world champion with New Zealand and who today works at Stade Toulousian. And the fullback joined Israel Dagg: “You have another fan from New Zealand, Alfie.”

In Welsh rugby, everyone gave their voice of encouragement for the boy. The young figure Louis Rees-Zammit Louis Rees-Zammit (“Don’t listen to those idiots, Alfie. I want to see you at a Gloucester game ASAP. Let me know when you’re interested,” he invited), Liam Williams (“Enjoy the game, it’s all that matters”), and Jonathan Davies (Ignore them, they told me I was too young to play.)

The messages came in all languages. In French he wrote the brilliant opening of the French team Matthew Jalibert. “Alfie, all my youth I was told I was too small, too skinny…When I read your father’s post, my heart aches. Never lose hope. Believe in your dreams. Your dad is your number one fan and I’m your second.”

From South Africa, Tendai Matiwara He reminded him: “My great friend, you have my support. I too walked this path once when people bullied me because of my size – keep your head up and never let your haters get to you. The game of rugby is for everyone.”

The Argentine contribution did Augustine Creevy, who dedicated his message to him: “My friend Alfie, enjoy what makes you happy. You have a great team behind you that needs you. Those who understand rugby are the ones who have fun and make friends, so you’re on the right track.”

Legends of English rugby, such as Brian Moore, also went out to the intersection: “I kept playing Alfie; I know it’s hard to ignore bad comments, but they come from idiots trying to make themselves feel better by running down other people.”

Y Nigel Owens, considered one of the best referees in world rugby also participated. “Alfie mate, I continued to enjoy rugby. Always do your best, but always enjoy it. You’re doing good, keep going. I will go one day to referee one of your games”, he promised.

Rugby clubs, international federations, selected accounts. They all joined the cause. And beyond rugby: former England, Liverpool and Manchester City player Robbie Fowler lent his support.

“It was a shame when I saw the comment because Alfie doesn’t have much confidence in himself and has only just begun to believe in his ability this season and realize how important he is to the team. He started going to classes at the gym and wants to walk everywhere instead of taking transport”, commented Mark Pugsley in an interview with the portal Wales Online.

Alfie Pugsley became a symbol of world rugby
Alfie Pugsley became a symbol of world rugby

Pugsley still can’t figure out how the subject was magnified. “Everything that happened is crazy.” His tweet has already generated more than 11,000 comments (most of them very positive and supportive), and has 220,000 likes..

“Louis Rees-Zammit offered us tickets to see him play Gloucester, Nigel Owens said he’s coming to referee one of Alfie’s games, the Dragons have already asked us to have Alfie accompany the team to the next game , players from several teams want to give us their shirts and Andy Powell (former player of the national team), promised that he will come to help in some training”, Mark Pugsley reviewed, overwhelmed by the support.

And while the “Alfie Revolution” continues to shoot messages in all directions, what does the young rugby player say? Of course the family protected him and kept him away from the media, but his dad said: “He loves receiving all the nice mentions. We were going through the comments and he saw that the official World Rugby Twitter page had commented on something and he told me: ‘They are the owners of rugby, right? That’s great’. This restored my faith in the rugby community.”

World Rugby's message to Alfie Pugsley
World Rugby’s message to Alfie Pugsley

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