Spain playing against Ireland in the World Rugby Sevens Series, in Malaga. /SHAY CONAGHAN

Spain playing against Ireland in the World Rugby Sevens Series, in Malaga. / SHAY CONAGHAN

International fans come together at the World Rugby Sevens Series in Malaga

The women's teams played the first games in the morning in front of a crowd of locals and foreigners

SHAY CONAGHAN

Malaga awoke to a crisp and cool winter morning, not too dissimilar to what the city usually experiences at this time of year. Over in the Estadio Ciudad de Malaga, the World Rugby Sevens Series was about to get under way under the heat of the rising sun.

The early-morning crowd this Friday, 21 January, might have been small, with not even a quarter of the seats occupied by fans, but even then, the atmosphere was upbeat. England's women were facing-off against France, with the Belgians in the stand shouting in support of their Francophone cousins.

The arrival of schoolchildren from the local Claro Campoamor school really transformed the atmosphere, as the youngsters, excited to be missing out on classes and seeing some intense rugby at play, created a buzz that was hard to ignore.

When it was time for Spain, the hosts, to take to the pitch, the crows erupted with the cries of hundreds of voices, young and old, chanting "España! España! España!" The children were the loudest of them all, as they all vigorously waved their handmade, paper Spanish flags.

By then the crowds at the stadium had grown, with fans coming from far afield and also closer to home, making it feel like a true melting pot of different peoples and cultures.

In the case of Madison, she had travelled across the Atlantic to watch the United States play. "I've come all the way from Maine, a two-and-a-half hour drive away from Boston," she said.

Madison, who comes from Maine in the United States, watches her country play. / SHAY CONAGHAN

Madison, who was wearing a pearl-white t-shirt with "USA" printed across the front, has recently had her passion for the sport come to life. "I've just graduated from college, doing business management, and decided to come and watch the rugby 7s here. I became a fan after watching it at the last Olympic cycle," she explained. "Then I used to cover the women's team in a podcast for WiSP Sports."

Daniel is a big fan of rugby, as he sits in the stands with a vibrant Australia jumper on. He comes from Barcelona and has spent time Down Under. "I was living in Brisbane for two years, and that's where I fell in love with rugby 7s," he said. "I was already a big rugby fan before moving there, and in that area of the world, the sport is a big part of their culture." Daniel made the trip from his native Barcelona all the way to Malaga after hearing about the tournament, an opportunity he couldn't pass up.

Daniel, originally from Barcelona, poses with the Australian flag. / SHAY CONAGHAN

Among the crowd were certain people who were more than just rugby 7s fans. A lot of those in attendance were also cheering on their children, with some parents making the trip across the globe.

Vicent Parsons and his wife Evelyn came from Ireland with their daughter Beibhinn, who was recently named Irish Rugby Writers Player of the Year, take part in the tournament. "I'm here to watch my daughter play. She scored the first try in the opening match!" Vicent said excitedly. "We try and come and see her whenever we can, but some of the tournaments are too far away," he explained.

Vicent came to Malaga with his wife Evelyn to watch their daughter Beibhinn, who plays for Ireland. / SHAY CONAGHAN

As for his current trip, the Irishman said that Malaga was a great destination. "It was a bit of a nuisance to get here, with all the extra paperwork and protocols, but Malaga is a fantastic city and with great weather. We're spending a week here before going to Seville next weekend," he said.

Paul and his wife Karen also made the effort to support their son, Nathan Lawson, who represents Australia. Although their trip was somewhat longer than Vicent and Evelyn's. "We've come from Sydney, Australia to see our son play," said Paul, both decked out, along with his wife, in their nations famous yellow colours. "We didn't have any real trouble coming over, only that it was a long trip. We were in Barcelona before finally making our way down here."

Paul and Karen watch one of the ongoing games. / MIGUE FERNÁNDEZ

The World Rugby Sevens Series is on for the remainder of the weekend, with pool matches set to finish on Friday before Saturday and Sunday see the knockout stages commence. The men's and women's finals will be held on Sunday, before the spotlight shifts to Seville next week.