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  • Writer's picture Kester Eddy

Budapest Exiles - Rugby Boys (and Girls) - Burpee for the Homeless

What is a burpee, you might ask? Up until last Thursday, I certainly did. Indeed, grammatically, is one allowed to burpee? Can it be a verb? It's all very puzzling.

The Budapest Exiles - Men's Team. Antoni is the 6 foot 2 inch hulk you would't want to mess with in a dark alley at night in the pink shirt, back row, right. The captain is Frenchman Joris Auger, and, along with Magyars, there are various Brits, South Africans and Kiwis in the team, plus a former Mexico international. The head coach is Venezualan, his deputy American. (I hope I've not missed anybody out!)

I was trying to start this post with a clever line involving the words “Exiles for Main Street” - playing on the Rolling Stones' famous LP – but decided it got too convoluted, so let's get straight into it. The Budapest Exiles are an amateur rugby team, based (as one might suppose) in the Hungarian capital and comprising a mixture of domestic and expatriate players.

Founded in 1991, their website immodestly states they are “... the most popular rugby club in Hungary and 3 time champion (2016,17,18) … [their] social scene is legendary too.”

That last bit probably deserves a post of its own, but we'll leave it at that for now. What is a 'burpee'? It sounds slightly rude, certainly a questionable act in public, but have no fear – turns out it's a word, I suspect American, for a series of moderately demanding exercises which are good for all of us, but especially for sporting types. So far, so exhausting for unfit oldies (like me). But the Exiles have soft hearts, and as Antoni Bohdanowicz, the British-Polish first-team coach and general-do-all-sorts for the club wrote to me: “I had a vision for the Exiles not only being a rugby club that competes for the national title ... but is also at the heart of Budapest life. I wanted us to be an example to other sport clubs and give back to the society. Back in Warsaw, my old rugby club – the Frogs – did a lot of charity work.” So Antoni talked to his old pal Stuart McAlister, a well known Scot and veteran of this Danubian City. Stuart suggested a little known charity called Utcáról Lakásba Egyesület – which translates into something like the From Streets to Homes Association – its purpose being to help homeless people get a roof over their heads and back on the road to a normal life. “The number one goal was to raise a lot [of dosh], but for a proper charity, one that is honest. Utcáról Lakásba is one that puts the people it supports first, and doesn’t treat charity as a business. Nowadays you get so many foundations where it’s purely about making a profit for the people running it. I really didn’t want to get behind someone who'd use our hardwork to buy a fancy car - and I’ve seen that happen," Antoni said. "Stuart told me that this was a great charity to work with, and I trust him that it is." Now I didn't know what a burpee was, but I do happen to know this charity – I've done two stories on them awhile back, and that is exactly my impression too. It's run by Vera Kovács, a quite spoken, modest, but hard-working young lady, whom I first met in her former office in district VIII. As I wrote at the time: They invented “ruin pubs” in Budapest's district VII: in neighbouring, unfashionable district VIII, they've invented the “ruin office”. In a cramped room, full of donated clutter and with a desk that was probably a best seller in the era of Party Secretary Mátyás Rákosi (Hungary's answer to Josef Stalin), Vera Kovács is at work, unperturbed by her hand-me-down surroundings. For the story of how Vera and Co helped the former homeless László Murányi from the streets back to a full, active life, see pages 42-45 here – But back to the burpeeing Exiles. The club came up with the idea of 'sponsored burpees' – supporters pledge a donation per burpee burpeed – with the goal of raising HUF 1.5 million – the sum, more or less, needed for the materials for unpaid volunteers to restore a typical wreck of a flat into a home, Vera told Perceptions-Budapest. Which raises the question as to how many burpees can an average amateur player in the Exiles manage safely in a training session? “That question is very difficult to answer,” Antoni responded, adding “The minimum is 15. Club legend Zsolt Haboczki, who is still active at 50, can do twice as many burpees as his age in a single training session and still want more.” (Now, that is a genuine legend, surely?)

Photo: Budapest Exiles Ladies: Fewer, but arguably Fairer (although I'm not quite sure what the one in the blue shirt is doing in the back row).

The ladies, too, are doing their part in all this. “Some of the girls have been caught doing 50 burpees, despite being told that they can do less,” Antoni says, “But in general, we’ve calculated that the minimum to reach 15.000 burpees in a month would be 15 burpees per person per day. I’ve signed up for that, though due a very high demand of burpees from me from both family members (sister with husband, and aunt) and work colleagues, I will do more than the 15 I signed for,” he says, sounding almost gleeful at the prospect. It makes me almost pant just to write the above words, but if you think you might be willing to sponsor these burpeeing rugby club guys and gals, go to this page with explanations in English.

As of yesterday, when I visited the page, they'd got almost HUF 300,000 promised, a little under one fifth of their goal.

It all runs until March 10.

I wish all involved many happy burpeeing sessions.

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