Did you know that Klagenfurt has a rugby team, and that the kinda successful boys are calling themselves the Anexia Tigers?
Anexia is an internationally operating IT company with several offices worldwide. Global thinking and the international network of employees, partners and customers is one of the main reasons for success. But nevertheless, we haven’t forgotten about our origins. Anexia is a company from Carinthia and has its head office in Klagenfurt. For ten years we have been showing, that the south of Austria doesn’t just deliver bad headline, but there are positive, interesting and successful things happening here as well. We want to fight the brain drain, that takes place in Carinthia and want to approve, that the region is evolving.
A flourishing economic needs attractive employers, but that is not was what is needed for success. That’s why we decided to support the region beyond our own nose. Since 2013 for example we are proud sponsor of the Anexia Tigers, Klagenfurt’s rugby club. They are as much exotic as we are. The tigers with Jürgen Knopper being the chairman and Harald Hofer and Gilbert Blechschmid being trainers proves, that Carinthians can do better, than many prejudices may guess.
I have visited the guys at their training session and talked with them about being a niche in Carinthia.
Lucia Schöpfer: Let’s start at the beginning: Why is there a rugby club in Klagenfurt and since when do the Anexia Tigers exist?
Jürgen Knopper: We founded the Club in 2008. Back in the days, we were a external training unit from the former Matadors Paternion and the third rugby club in Carinthia. We’ve just been like 4-5 people. That’s how all began. 2010 the other two rugby clubs have dissolved and we were the only ones remaining. First, we’ve just played the Olympic rugby, where there are just seven players in a team. But now, we have a team for classic rugby with 15 players.
LS: I haven’t prepared myself so well, let me ask this naiv question: What is rugby all about?
JK: The system of rules is complex. But it’s enough if you know: throwing the ball forward is not allowed, so players can gain ground just by running with the ball or by kicking it. The aim of the game is to score more points than the opponent. You score points by grounding the ball over the opponents’ goal line or with penalty shots.
Rugby is a contact sport, but tackling etc. has to be controlled.
Gilbert Blechschmid: We don’t wear protections, that means that the contact has to be very technical. That is the difference to American Football. And that with rugby, every player is allowed to pass, which makes the game more open. Rugby more like soccer than like American football.
JK: True. In the early days, rugby and soccer once where the same sport. Then the people, who had a grass field started to play rugby. That people, who just had the street were playing soccer. And you can see the similarity till today. You’re always fighting for the ball, like with soccer.
Harry Hofer: Rugby is a fast and dynamic sport.
LS: And what makes the passion to play rugby? Why do you prefer to play rugby and not soccer?
GB: Let me tell you how I got to know rugby. I’ve spent my semester abroad in France by the time when the rugby world championship was running. France is a huge rugby nation. The roommates from the students dorm went to the park with me to play rugby. I didn’t know what to do and as soon as I got the ball I was tackled down. In the first second I just felt dizzy. But I stood up, looked in my rival’s eye and felt a small adrenalin kick.
HH: A small one?
GB: Yeah, I guess it’s more a big adrenalin kick. But you know what happened? My rival came over to me, helped me up and asked if everything is ok. I think, that’s what the core values of rugby are: You are, not like with soccer, much more fairer with each other. Because rugby is a contact sport, you look after each other. Discipline is one of our core values. In such way, I’ve never experienced any other sport: so intense, joint, goal-oriented. That what makes it special for me.
HH: Rugby is an honest game.
LS: Is rugby a niche sport in Austria?
JK: It is definitely a niche sport. But the niche has grown in the last years. A huge boom is still not happening. Many clubs have to dissolve after the first period. We are one of the only clubs, that managed to survive and to keep up the gaming operations, although it can be hard from time to time. You need a lot of good players, and they aren’t always easy to find.
LS: You are playing without protection. Don’t you get hurt from time to time?
HH: Of course, there is a certain risk, that you get hurt. But actually that’s the reason, why we are emphasizing the core values of discipline, technique and the process. Player safety is very important. There are straight rules, what is ok and what you are allowed to do. We are taking a controlled risk and we are supporting each other, that this just stays a risk and doesn’t get reality.
LS: The last question: If people got interested now: Where can they watch your games?
GB: Our home matches are always taking place at the Donau playground in St. Ruprecht, Klagenfurt. We are playing in the second Austrian rugby league and therefore have a championship from March till November. In the summer break we are playing the Olympic rugby. Being in the Austrian league means, from time to time, we have to take a long journey to the matches. But that’s part of our sport.
JK: Yes, you have to live with that, when you play rugby. When I think about some soccer players already moaning when they have to travel one hour, we just can smile.
GB: Yeah, and if someone wants more than just watch our games, but find out how it is to play a contact sport: Our trainings are open trainings. Everyone, who is interested is warmly invited: trainings take place every Monday at the Koschat playground at 18:15h and every Thursday at 19:15h at the Donau playground.
And if there are girls, who also want to try their best on the rugby playground: the Anexia Tigers are joining the club in Tarvisio for the girls training. You can always come and join them.