Wild and Free Foundation is thrilled to share the incredible news: On October 2, 2023, the Rhino Cup Champions League was awarded the Grassroots Organization of the Year Award at the BBC Green Sport Awards 2023! Our team is buzzing with excitement, and we want to convey just how ecstatic, surprised, and profoundly grateful we are for this honor.
This recognition not only acknowledges the incredible effort going into the community’s Rhino Cup Champions League initiative but also amplifies Wild and Free Foundations’s message of conservation and community empowerment.
"The Rhino Cup Champions League is a very different approach at raising sustainability awareness, but it's a very successful one. It has already grown as a competition to neighbouring countries and will only raise more climate awareness the more it grows." BBC Sport
Why did the RCCL win Grassroots Organization of the Year?
The Rhino Cup Champions League, which was founded in Mozambique in 2016, is an amateur football league for young men and women in rural African communities surrounding national parks and wildlife reserves. Wild and Free Foundation has used the popularity of football to help local communities feel better connected to wildlife conservation and learn about the impacts of climate change.
The RCCL harnesses three key emotions - pride, gratitude, and compassion - which can then inspire and empower participants to actively engage in the cause. The RCCL wants to bring in a new era of conservation practices rooted in sustainable development.
What did the RCCL Co-Founder say?
RCCL co-founder Matt Bracken: "The Rhino Cup Champions League came from asking, 'How can we help stop young men from going into the wildlife reserves and risking their lives and the lives of animals to kill that animal for profit?' It is a football league brought to you by your local rhinoceros, and that is bringing so much. It's bringing compassion, happiness, hope, and love. It was the community's idea, and that's why it's a success."
What did the BBC Green Sport Awards nominations committee say?
"The Rhino Cup Champions League is a very different approach at raising sustainability awareness, but it is a very successful one. It has already grown as a competition to neighboring countries and will only raise more climate awareness the more it grows.” BBC Green Sport Awards
Community Involvement: A Game-Changer
Our approach to conservation is unconventional but powerful. We believe in harnessing the emotions of pride, gratitude, and compassion through football to drive positive change. It's not just about winning a game; it's about winning hearts and minds for the cause of rhino conservation.
The role of communities in conservation cannot be overstated; they are the custodians of the land and its wildlife. Engaging with rural African communities through the RCCL initiative is not only about ensuring the well-being of rhinos but also providing economic opportunities that can transform lives. The Rhino Cup Champions League goes beyond soccer; it's about forging a sustainable future for Africa's rhinos and its communities. The RCCL symbolizes the potential for change, a beacon of hope illuminating the path toward the future of conservation.
Wild and Free Foundation envisions a future where conservation becomes a way of life, not just a buzzword. This initiative represents a paradigm shift in our approach, actively involving communities in the protection of their natural heritage.
The local football club from Hwange-Dete area, Rock Rabbits FC, was on a routine snare removal patrol on a local farmer’s land that neighbors the Wildlife National Park on Saturday morning, April 9, 2023, accompanied by Matt Bracken, co-founder of the Rhino Cup Champions League, and Executive Committee member Mr. Masuku Ndodana Melusi.
The Rhino Cup Champions League aims at the identification of raw talent, track, and nurturing of an athlete from the grassroots up to the elite level. It is also imperative to note that participating in the RCCL enables youth’s development by staying away from substance and drug abuse and practicing good health. Football activities in these wildlife-rich communities have been attributed to having played a pivotal role in conservation efforts that have led to a decline in wildlife crimes.
As a testament to the RCCL’s effectiveness, Mr. Brighton Joroma, Hwange Zim-Parks Area Manager for Hwange National Park and Forestry Commission Areas, commented at the recently held end-of-year football merit awards (March 12, 2022) held at the Hwange National Park Conference Room, attended by various stakeholders. "Animals are very safe during weekends as the Rhino Cup Champions League is now more exciting.” Mr. Brighton Joroma
The Zimbabwe Republic Police Dete Officer in Charge, Inspector Masakadza, commended the executive committee of the Rhino Cup Champions League Zimbabwe as one of the key enablers in reducing the crime rate in the area and poaching in particular through the gainful common engagements, "to show that football through the Rhino Cup Champions League, with sponsorship from Wild and Free Foundation, has played a key part in shaping the communities and reducing the crime rate". Inspector Masakadza
Leading the Way for a Sustainable Future
Our commitment to rural African communities extends well beyond conservation. Our firm belief lies in investing in the youth and communities surrounding wildlife reserves as a means to break the cycle of poaching and forge a brighter future for everyone. The fusion of sports and community passion possesses the potential to ignite tangible change.
The RCCL initiative exemplifies the spirit of the Grassroots Organization of the Year Award, as it actively supports environmental and climate change causes. Through the Rhino Cup Champions League, we uplift rural communities, provide economic opportunities, and educate the youth about the importance of wildlife conservation. It's about creating a sustainable future for both people and wildlife.
The Rhino Cup Champions League exists to create fundamental organic change in communities throughout Africa and to build long-term, inclusive new opportunities while dramatically increasing the potential and livelihood of rural youth.
Chamila Ngomane, with her proud mother next to her, was the first woman to win the top goal scorer award in her women’s football league. Chamila played for Peregrinas de Sábiè F.C. during the 2019 RCCL season. The football club has been proudly sponsored by Travel Beyond, an international travel agency, since 2019.
Chamila Ngomane was the first woman to win the top goal scorer award and with the cash prize money she received for her outstanding performance, she helped her parents buy her school supplies. Chamila’s choice as a leader among her peers captured the truest and most deeply held value of education, which is bound into the DNA of this community.
The Rhino Cup Champions League is a remarkable collaboration in Chamila’s community to develop, launch, and sustain new opportunities for Chamila, her peers, and her community, in a very special and emerging part of the world.
Chamila can be seen, front-left, next to the couch of Centro de Saúde FC, as the football team celebrates their victory in the Rhino Cup Girls League, Mozambique, 2022. The team is sponsored by a private family group, the Stout Family, from the USA. Their sponsorship logo has a rhino on it, and the slogan reads "El Forca" (The Force).
The Rhino Cup Champions League is not just a football league; it's a movement. It's a movement toward a greener, more sustainable future where rhinos roam freely, and communities thrive. The RCCL is a symbol of resilience, teamwork, and the enduring spirit of communities surrounding wildlife reserves.
As we move forward, we invite you to be a part of this incredible journey. Together, we can make a lasting impact on rhino conservation and the lives of the communities we work with. We are filled with gratitude—gratitude for the recognition, for the support we've received from our partners and supporters, and for the opportunity to make a real difference in the world. We are optimistic, and we believe in the power of unity and action. This award serves as a reminder that when individuals and communities come together, they can achieve extraordinary things.
Together, we'll create a brighter, greener future.
Together, we can make a difference, one goal at a time.
Together, we are making history.
In Africa, this is the RCCL.
Thank you for your support!