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A girl in Vietnam with a strange, egg-shaped ball

It is early on a chilly winter morning in Kim Boi, a northern mountainous district in Vietnam. The sun is still hidden behind the clouds and the air is filled with thick, grey fog.

A group of local youth are already up and ready, even though it’s Sunday and school is closed. That’s because today they are heading to the district stadium for a competition they had been looking forward to for months – ChildFund Pass It Back’s end of season tag rugby competition.

In 2016, Than was 15 years-old and had never played with a rugby ball in her life. Than lost her mother when she was a baby, and after her father also passed away, she moved in with her relatives. Than was the meek one, who rarely laughed. She grew up shy and reserved, with a small circle of friends and was sometimes teased by other children.

Few people in Than’s community, let alone Vietnam, knew what rugby was. All Than understood about the game was that it used a strange, egg-shaped ball, which could only be passed back. Encouraged by her cousin Phuong, two years her senior and already a particpant in ChildFund Pass It Back, Than thought she’d give it a go. It was a decision that was to change her life.

ChildFund Pass It Back is a sport for development program that uses rugby as a tool to build leadership and life skills in children and young people across disadvantaged communities in Asia. Soon, Than was a member of team ‘Peony’ along with 11 other girls. Her journey with the egg-shaped ball had begun.


Than (pictured with ball) is one of Vietnam’s new generation of female rugby players.

Through the training sessions, Than not only realised how much she loved the game, but that she was really good at it. She could run fast and catch the ball easily. Through the life skills lessons, each of which is linked with to the five rugby values – integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect – Than’s self confidence grew. She made more friends and laughed more often.

It has now been over a year since Than first passed the egg-shaped ball. She is one of more than 1,500 ChildFund Pass It Back players in Kim Boi, Vietnam and among the very first female Vietnamese rugby players in the country. Today, she is also one of the young people on that early morning bus, laughing with her friends on their way to the District stadium.

As they reach their destination, the sun shines bright and burns away the fog. Buses with players from other communes also arrive and Vietnam’s newest generation of rugby players pour out from the vehicles.

Than joins her friends and coaches to do a pitch safety check. They pick up any hard objects from the pitch such as stones, and begin the team warm-up. A voice echoes from a loudspeaker on the stage. Than turns her head to the sound, her hair blowing in the breeze; somebody is calling her team back to their tent.

The sun fills up the stadium with its gentle warmth and the stadium bursts into cheering. The games are on.

ChildFund Pass It Back is an innovative Sport for Development program led by ChildFund in partnership with World Rugby, Asia Rugby and Women Win. This program has the support of the Australian Government.

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