Sun, Beaches, the 3rd Half and Rugby – Pt 1

Part 1: THE BEAUTIFUL journey OF JONAS, EXPATRIATE IN MALTA

Jonas Nahon lives a beautiful adventure in Malta.

The chronicle of the Rugbynistère of Foreign Affairs is back with the beautiful story of Jonas... in Malta.

Born in 1987, “I am a good old brother of 30 years old“, Jonas Nahon is a translator for the Government in the framework of the Presidency of Europe. Originally from the town of Grasse in the Alpes-Maritimes, he started at the local club at the age of 5, a club he will not leave until he was 20 and his departure from France.

Ireland, Australia, Scotland …. IrelandAustraliaScotland… No question of abandoning rugby for this hooker, who unfortunately had to resign himself to stop playing due to several injuries to his cruciate ligaments. Becoming Coach for the Swieqi Overseas Rugby Club, on the small island of Malta, in the heart of the Mediterranean, he tells us his adventure.

How did you end up in Malta? Wasn’t it too difficult to adapt? 

The choice of Malta was made a bit by chance. After three years in Ireland, and after having lived on the other side of the world, I simply wanted to be in a country with the Sun, which is English speaking, and in Europe. I found Malta, did my backpack, and left without any connection or any plan; except the fact that as usual, I directly looked for a rugby club as it is the best way to meet people, to have good plans, and simply to continue playing. The acclimation was very easy since the country is very welcoming, the beers cost less than 2 euros, and I landed in the club that welcomes all foreigners and expats. The main advice I can give to any rugby player who goes abroad is to seek a rugby club in priority, because it opens doors at all levels (housing, work, night life …).

It is hard to imagine that there is a rugby culture down there. Tell us a little bit more about it!

I started rugby when I was 5 years old, and I play/coach for four seasons now in Malta. The rugby culture is very small here, with the only truly popular sports on this island of 30km being football and water polo. My club, Swieqi Overseas Rugby, is the oldest on the island (we celebrate our 70th anniversary this year). This club is built around a core group of players, but half of the team is renewed every year because we have approximately 60% of expatriates, whose lifetime in Malta is generally 1 or 2 years. Without counting the young trainees or students in language schools who usually join us for only 5 or 6 months, during their internship.

There is therefore a huge cultural mix!

We are on average 3 to 5 French per year in this club, with the same number of English, and a mix of more than 10 nationalities including Malta, the countries of the United Kingdom, South Africa, or even from Mexico or Chile. Since the origin of the club 70 years ago, a lot of Frenchies have gone through this club, and, since I am in Malta, we have hosted several of them: some are true geniuses, in particular a specific Billy, from Pamiers in Ariège, great supporter of the club of David Marty le Catalan. Others come from various clubs such as Quillan, Mazamet, Millau, Ceret, Toulouse, Reims, the Basque Country, full of other clubs everywhere in France and even an “Espoir” from Pau who joined us. In addition, how can I not quote the Chief of the Referees of the country, which is none other than another Frenchy (I win a bottle of Ricard if I quote his name, therefore, Lionel Da Silva, If you read me…), and who does a tremendous job in the development of rugby over here.

For the little story, we are going on a tour during the weekend of the top 14 semi-finals (from the 26th to the 29th of May) in Marseille, very nicely sponsored by my Club Equipment, where we will play against the club of Gardanne who is very generously welcoming us. We are going to initiate the Maltese to the joys of a Rugby Tour, of the Velodrome Stadium, and of a proper French rugby atmosphere. If anyone would like to join us, or to give us some advices on places where to properly party for the 3rd Half, we will be a group of about thirty and we are not there just to be there!

Let’s take a quick look at Maltese rugby … If you had to compare the level of the league to a French division, what would it be? 

Since I arrived, and for multiple reasons, the rugby level has declined, as well as the competitiveness. Judge by yourself: Four years ago, we had 2 divisions, with a D1 comprising four clubs, and a D2 comprising eight teams (4 other clubs, and the second teams of the 4 clubs from the 1st division). The second division has simply disappeared, and we are now only five clubs. However, the recent change in the Rugby Presidency may very well revive this sport here. Levels are quite strange to compare because the five clubs are really not at the same level. Let’s say that the best matches and the finals reach a correct level of Federal 3, but as a general rule it is rather a Honor level.

It must be understood that my club for example, which has gleaned 13 of 17 trophies that were available in the last four years, mixes players of all levels. In the team, we have for example a few Maltese international players, a guy who played in a Top 14 club not later than last year, but also players who only started rugby last year. This enormous mix of players is very interesting as we see that in the end, we all manage to adapt to a certain level, to have fun, to win, and it is a bit of a victory in itself.

 

Read Part 2 here.

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