PHL Rugby selects first grassroots player for debut at the Rugby 7s Olympic Qualifiers

MANILA, Nov. 6 (PNA)– The Philippine Rugby Football Union (PRFU) has reached a milestone as Lito Ramirez, the first player from the Union’s grassroots program, was selected to be part of the Philippine Volcanoes National Men’s Rugby Sevens team that is set to compete this weekend in the Asian Rugby 7s Qualifiers for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Since its inception, the PRFU’s mission has been to develop the sport of Rugby in the Philippines, to be played by Filipinos. One of its first grassroots programs was with charitable foundations such as Bahay Bata, Tuloy Foundation, Child Hope, SOS Children’s Villages and Duyan ni Maria Orphanage.

Lito Ramirez learned his Rugby skills at the Tuloy Foundation in Muntinlupa, a haven built by the efforts of Fr. Rocky Evangelista, that provides hundreds of underprivileged, abandoned and homeless children the opportunity to learn academics and sports in a safe and caring environment.

Lito was only 13 when he was first introduced to the sport of Rugby Union seven years ago. His inherent speed, agility, ball handling skills and ability to work with a team made him a natural fit for the game of Sevens Rugby. Lito was then selected to represent the Philippines in the National u16 team and continued to learn and play the sport with the goal of one day becoming a Volcano. He then went on to play for the Philippine National u18s and represented the National Men’s Development team in 2014.

Lito was also part of the Clark Jets team which swept all their matches to bag the Gold Medal at the 2015 Philippine National Games. It was at these games that Lito won his spot in the Philippine Volcanoes Men’s 7s training squad. Coming from an underprivileged background has given Lito the life experiences and determination to never give up – a trait that has now paid dividends, as evidenced by his inclusion in the Men’s 7s National Team.

The Volcanoes will face some tough opposition this weekend when they face Malaysia, Hong Kong and Iran on Saturday and then come up against Sri Lanka on Sunday. The top team at the end the Olympic Qualifications will get an outright spot, while the next three teams win the right to move onto the World Repechage for a chance to make the final 12 teams that will compete at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Regardless of what this weekend’s results will be, Lito Ramirez’ achievement proves to other young Filipino athletes that with hard work, anything is possible and sport is a great way to achieve skills for success, both on and off the field. Lily O. Ramos/PNA