It started out as a caring father’s message of support for his son who had been abused online for being too “big” to play rugby.
Now, Alfie Pugsley is the talk of the sport, the subject of a wave of well-wishes and inspirational replies from many of rugby’s most famous players and teams who have offered some unlikely opportunities to the 11-year-old from south Wales.
His father, Mark, tweeted on Sunday to say he had removed a post on Facebook because “an idiot commented saying my boy is too ‘big’ to play under 12s and isn’t healthy.”
“If only people knew how hard he works to get fitter and how low his confidence has been,” Mark Pugsley wrote in his post, alongside a picture of Alfie wearing his rugby uniform while playing for Oakdale RFC in Caerphilly, Wales. “Don’t worry Alfie I’ll always be your biggest fan.”
It sparked a flurry of responses from players like World Cup winners Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira of South Africa and Jerome Kaino of New Zealand, the official accounts of the All Blacks, England and Ireland teams, and players from different sports across many countries.
“I heard very similar things when I was younger,” wrote Alex Corbisiero, a former England prop who now is a rugby pundit for NBC Sports. “Alfie keep working hard, you will have the last laugh and I promise this experience will make you a better person later in your life. Keep smiling.”
Springboks great Mtawarira wrote: “Big fella you have my support. I walked this road too once upon a time when people silently bullied me about my size and questioned whether I was the correct age for my age group. Keep your head high and never let the haters get to you.”
Nigel Owens, one of the rugby’s most famous match officials, offered to referee one of Alfie’s games and another Welshman, former international player Andy Powell, said he would do a coaching session at Oakdale.
“Alfie,” wrote France flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert, in French, “I was told all my youth that I was too small, too skinny, too thin. When I read your dad’s post, it breaks my heart. Never lose hope. Believe in your dreams. Your dad is your number one fan. I am the second.”
As of Tuesday, Mark Pugsley’s tweet had more than 220,000 likes.
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