Vivi Silva - Brazil
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your rugby journey?
My name is Vivian Silva, I am 26 years old, and I live in the city of Apucarana in the state of Paraná in Brazil. I started playing rugby when I was 17. A friend at school introduced me to the sport and since then it has been my passion! I played for two years with men in Apucarana until I was old enough to access other teams in the region and played a match with the women's team in Londrina, a city 60km away. Right away we played in a state championship, we were in the top four teams and the experience was amazing!
With the support of other teams and the men's team, we created a team for Apucarana. We continued playing for a whole year, but unfortunately due to the lack of funds and personal reasons, some players no longer wanted to be part of the team.
From 2016 onwards I moved between two teams, playing state and national competitions, but in 2018 I suffered a serious injury during a game. I had to undergo surgery and I even thought about stepping away from rugby.
In 2019 my extraordinary friend Margrith invited me to the first rugby league clinic for a team in Maringá, another city near Apucarana. There a new hope and a new phase began! A rugby code that was little known in the country but won my heart.
In 2020 I started trials for the Brazilian Rugby League Team. I honestly was not prepared for this, but like every athlete I dreamed of being part of the team. But we had an even bigger problem, the COVID-19 pandemic. Our tests and training were postponed.
Later in 2020 we did manage to organize a camp and friendly match for our team from Maringá. I delivered everything I could. I stood out among the players and my hope of playing in a World Cup was increasing, as were the responsibilities with came with that too! This was never a problem for me - I would train as many times as needed for days, months, and years. What I wanted was to be part of the Brazilian national team.
In 2021 we organized a national championship with six teams. It was incredible. After the last game of the season, a list was created for the final selection process for the Rugby League World Cup, and I was among the 40 best players in the country. It was the dream coming true, so palpable, until, because of the pandemic, the tournament was postponed until 2022.
In 2022 unfortunately a knee injury did not allow me to participate in the first game with my team. I was devastated. Was I going to lose my spot? Was I going to lose my dream? My diagnosis was not good, a ligament injury. Should I and could I continue in this fight for the spot? I took the risk and started conservative treatment to be able to play in 2022 and return to the field.
Unfortunately, my injuries did not give me enough time for a recovery that could guarantee me a good performance in the final training sessions to decide the squad. I did not make the 2022 Rugby League World Cup but am thankful for every moment I spent with our amazing athletes.
My aim now is to schedule my surgery and my recovery. And I will dedicate myself to creating better training and playing conditions for future generations. Investment in women’s sport in Brazil is low and in a sport that people know even less about, we often invest out of our own pockets to make dreams come true, represent our teams, and do what we love.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with any of the photos?
My intention with the photos was to show our lived reality, our training and preparation. I also showed twins José and Maria who I met in Cuiabá. Two incredible women on and off the field, they are Venezuelans who left their country, but had an opportunity with rugby to accomplish things they can be very proud of.
What does rugby league mean to you?
Playing rugby league is about fulfilling a dream and proving what I am capable of. It means opening doors for a new generation and it means seeking the best for those who play this wonderful sport.
I want to help develop the sport, increasing the number of social projects and schools playing rugby, getting public funds to develop a strong foundation for our sport.
What role does rugby league play in your community and country?
In Brazil rugby is not yet fully structured, but there are many people who run projects with determination, will, and solidarity. They are often volunteers who can change the destiny of many young people, in particular the Maringá Rugby project, which I could see with my own eyes and the team grew like no other in the region.
The creator and director Margrith Weiss has created a project which has served many young people and trained many teachers. By February 2023, 220 children will be part of the project. The project has yielded many fruits for our women's and men's team, including our three South American champions from the Brazilian Youth Team in 2022, Ariely Faria, Giovanna Barth and Mariely Faria.
What are the biggest changes happening right now in women's rugby league?
We are experiencing a general change in many sports around the world, with a wave of recognition for women's sports - rugby has not been left out. This recognition and visibility can allow the sport to develop. But it is important that we have more women at the forefront, with greater decision-making power and influence to have a voice and a place.
What are the opportunities for women’s players in your country?
Unfortunately, we still have to invest a lot of money from our pockets and often because we do not have that money, girls and women end up leaving the sport. We also see bigger investments for men's teams instead of recognizing the achievements of women. In Brazil the women’s teams are higher in the world rankings of Sevens and Rugby League.
What do you expect to change after the RLWC for women's rugby league? What would you like to change?
I really hope that the Rugby League World Cup changes the way everyone sees women's sport. I know it will not happen overnight, we are talking about centuries of submission and prohibitions.
We still live in a patriarchy, but a World Cup opens the eyes of spectators. There is no way to erase history, there is no way to ignore such a great feat. Brazil is writing rugby history!
It is a first step towards change. I would love for our sport to receive more resources and for them to be distributed equally between women and men, for our athletes to be heard more, for everyone to have more opportunity.
Do you have a message for the next generation?
I would tell the next generation not to give up. There are a lot of good people developing good projects and our sport will have better conditions soon. Maybe not in two or three years, but we have patience and discipline. We are writing a legacy and we hope to leave the best for generations to come. All we want is for people to live this sport intensely - win, lose, make friends, create amazing moments, respect your opponents, your coaches, referees and above all respect everyone off the field too!