International Rugby League comes to Leeds
The British Asian Rugby Association (BARA) will be playing host to a 'mini' tour from the Italian Rugby League team next week with a fixture between the sides for the White Ribbon Trophy scheduled for the South Leeds Stadium on Saturday 28th May.
The match is a repeat of last year's clash in Rome when a BARA team, coached by Garry Schofield and founder Ikram Butt, just lost out to a last minute conversion in a 22-20 defeat.
The party from Lega Italia, officially  recognised by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) as the only governing body for rugby league in Italy, fly in the UK on the 26th May. The Italians will be presented to the media at Headingley on Friday 27th at noon before visiting the Makkah mosque to meet members of the Leeds Interfaith Forum.
There will be a mixed ability exhibition game as a curtain raiser to the game at the South Leeds Stadium with players from the pioneering Bingley-based Bumble Bees taking part along with players from other clubs across West Yorkshire.
The tour is sponsored by KASA with additional support from Regal, Inspirational Women's Foundation, Durham Accountants, Malik Halls, Highgate Solicitors, Click Your GP, AG Graphic Solutions, Mini Travel, Sporting Change, PRomotion and Abbey Scaffolding. The tour will also seek to promote the White Ribbon Campaign aimed at reducing domestic violence against women and children. 
Pierluigi Gentile, founder of Lega Italia, commented: “We are looking forward to our UK visit and thank BARA for making it happen. We hope to participate in another close, exciting game of Rugby League.”
Former England, Leeds and Featherstone Rugby League professional Ikram Butt who founded BARA 12 years ago commented: “We were treated like kings last year in Rome and again earlier this year as guests of Lega Italia when we discussed the White Ribbon Campaign and interfaith initiatives with the Pope at the Vatican.
“We hope to return the compliment and provide a competitive match for the Italian squad who are representing a fast growing governing body that is becoming the standard bearer for the 13-a-side code.''
Dr Muhammad Asim MBE, who was part of the delegation to meet the Pope at the Vatican will host the Italians at the Award winning Makkah mosque, commented, ''During my visit to the Vatican, I talked to the Pope about using sports to connect with young people.  BARA and Italian Rugby League both aspire to use the power of rugby to create safe, inclusive programmes for young people affected by poverty or conflict, and empower them. The community is, therefore, very much looking forward to hosting Italian Rugby League at Makkah mosque, and working together to inspire and empower young people of all backgrounds.'' 
“I'd like to put on record my thanks to Gary Hetherington from Leeds Rugby,  Darren Williams from Hunslet Hawks and Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake, as well as all of the sponsors, for their support in making this tour a reality,” added Ikram.