The first seven Youth Unstoppables have been unveiled by World Rugby and Mastercard, and each has an inspirational story to tell that highlights why the women’s game is the ultimate team sport — on and off the pitch.
Featuring young female athletes from across the globe who have overcome various challenges to find a community on the rugby pitch, the Youth Unstoppable stories aim to motivate the next generation of women and girls to interact with the game.
The bespoke digital content series will champion the stories of 17 inspirational young female players from 14 unions around the world.
❤️ "There is no other team like us."— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) October 7, 2021
Introducing an inspiring group of young female athletes all with their own stories to tell... our #YouthUnstoppables 💪
🚀 Launching 11.10.21, 9am BST https://t.co/fRyJsp6lPL
In partnership with @Mastercard | #WomenInRugby pic.twitter.com/SPLjXXlqsL
As the countdown approaches one year to go until Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022, tales from South Africa, USA, France, Norway and Paraguay will take centre stage.
South African Youth Unstoppable Zikhona will be featured on the first episode, which will premier across World Rugby digital platforms on Monday, 11 October in celebration of International Day of the Girl Child 2021.
Zikhona overcame initial concerns to start playing rugby aged 15, having been impressed by the team spirit that existed among the Busy Bees players who competed in her local community, Langa, in Cape Town.
Soon she and a friend had recruited enough players to form Busy Bees’ first under-16s girls’ team, and Zikhona has since gone on to be named Western Province U18 vice-captain.
Now 18, she delivered food parcels to team-mates in need during the COVID-19 pandemic and believes that rugby can be used as a tool for change in Langa and beyond.
Like Zikhona, fellow Youth Unstoppable Elin has been playing rugby for the past three years, having been captivated by the strength and skill on display at the HSBC USA Women’s Sevens in Glendale.
Only nine years old, Elin has devoted herself to the game, training hard, watching clips of her favourite players and even using rugby as the basis for school projects.
In January, 2021, she began training with USA Women’s Eagles prop Charli Jacoby, who believes the youngster can achieve anything she wants in the game.
Rugby has already given Youth Unstoppable Téani a great deal, helping her to settle in when she left the Pacific island of Futuna to attend boarding school in New Zealand, and subsequently facilitating a move to mainland France.
It was during a vacation to France that Téani caught the eye in a national U18 sevens championship, and having returned to play at a tournament for the 100 best players in that category the following year, she was approached by FC Grenoble Amazones.
She now plays in Grenoble alongside her sister Manaé and represented the France women’s sevens squad at a tournament in Dubai in April.
Unstoppable role models
Téani had grown up surrounded by the game in Futuna, and that was the case too for the Youth Unstoppables from Norway, sisters Kristin, Astrid and Mari.
It was through rugby that their parents met — when mum Bronia refereed a match dad Jon-Thomas was playing in — and the sisters have retained a strong link to the community.
Eldest sister Kristin, now 16, attended her first rugby tournament when she was just six days old and all three girls have grown up playing for the same team at Sagene IF in Oslo. Each now harbours dreams of playing for Norway, as their dad did.
The final member of the initial group of Youth Unstoppables is Andrea, from Luque in Paraguay, who says rugby has made her “more disciplined, responsible and helped me as a person”.
Andrea was introduced to the game by her sister, Perla three years ago and at Luque Rugby Club she has found a loving, family environment in which she has thrived.
Now 17, the hooker has represented Paraguay at U18 level and says she now aims to be a role model for those just starting out in the game at her club.
You will be able to learn more about Andrea, as well as Kristin, Astrid, Mari, Téani, Elin and Zikhona when their Youth Unstoppables stories are released across World Rugby digital platforms.
The campaign is part of World Rugby’s ambitious Accelerating the Development of Women in Rugby 2017-25 strategic plan and builds on strong foundations, with women’s rugby experiencing unprecedented growth in recent years – more than 2.7 million women and girls are currently playing globally, making up a quarter of the world’s playing population.
A long-time supporter of the sport and women in rugby, Mastercard is the exclusive partner of the Youth Unstoppables campaign, in addition to being founding Global Partner of the Women in Rugby programme.
The transformational five-year partnership will also see Mastercard become the first Worldwide Partner for Rugby World Cup 2021 and Rugby World Cup 2025, as Preferred Card for both tournaments, founding partner of Pacific Four Series and the Global Partner of WXV, the annual global women’s competition due to start in 2023.