Ian McKinley, the colossus and the heart
Ian McKinley, an award for a champion in rugby and in life. The first time I met Ian at his home in Treviso (he played for Benetton) I was impressed by his physical structure: big, as is obvious for a rugby player, very handsome – let me tell you – but not exaggerated. In short, a perfectly balanced colossus.
With his first words, a world opened up to me: all positive values are equally great and balanced in Ian: simplicity, honesty, righteousness, loyalty, generosity. “A champion? No, I honestly don’t consider myself a champion. I am a person who gives my all. “
But who is Ian McKinley?
Ian is a rugby champion, born 30 years ago in Ireland into a truly exceptional family. His father Horace is a parish priest who reminds me of “The diary of a country priest”. His mother Pam is a force of nature, the Jane Fonda of Ireland. Then the siblings Andrew, Emma and Philip, who will play a decisive role in the story along with his pillar, his wife Cordelia.
Ian soon reached the highest levels of world rugby playing as opening half with Leinster, up to participating in the U20 World Championship in Japan. In 2010, when he was only 20 years old, in a terrible battle on the pitch he suffered from damage to the retina which, after numerous operations, led to the loss of vision in his right eye.
In a very difficult period of his life he moves to Italy to work as a coach, but it is not enough for him since he “always gives his best”. During a visit from his brother Philip, he realizes that he can still play. In a short time he reaches the highest levels again, playing for Benetton and he ends up wearing the Italian national team jersey.
Look Beyond: “Every family is a documentary”
The idea of making a documentary about Ian and his family came to us while in an old boarding school in Dublin, where I met Philip in an inter-religious dialogue meeting with Women of Faith for Peace. The story of these two brothers, the rugby player and the chaplain, was fascinating, it had to be told.
It took us almost two years to see the finished film, with so many difficulties and tribulations. We followed Ian in many trainings and went to share family life in Ireland. Day after day, my admiration for Ian, Philip, and the whole family grew stronger and stronger. Families like this are an inspiration for the whole world.
Philip concludes the film by saying: “The family is a resource and a support. The family is the building block of society and the community. Every human being faces hard times, storms are inevitable. The critical point is: where is the life jacket? What saves you? Again, the family. In your family you can find heroes, supporters, motivators in different forms and every day. Every family is a documentary ”.
Part of the story concerns the conception of the first protective mask for players with eye difficulties, the goggles. One day it will be told in full, all the interesting and intriguing truth. For now it seemed important for us to talk about the extraordinary campaign organized by the McKinley family to get the mask accepted by the World Rugby Federation and the other various national federations.
Ian McKinley, an award for a champion in rugby and in life
The preview of the film was exciting, in Trento, with part of the family travelling down from Ireland. The film also screened in cinemas in Udine, Bologna; it even streamed online.
More recently, on Wednesday 11 November, there was a very important online event, the award ceremony of “SPORT MOVIES & TV 2020 – 38th MILANO INTERNATIONAL FICTS FEST” (www.sportmoviestv.com). This was the final of 20 Festivals (in the 5 Continents) of the “World FICTS Challenge (World Championship of Television, Cinema, Culture and Sports Communication). There were the leaders of the international Olympic committee and world sport champions. And there was also our Ian.
We were anxiously waiting as they announced the awards… When the call for the most important award, the “Guirlande d’Honneur 2020” in the sport and society section arrived.
“And the winner is…. Look Beyond, with Ian McKinley! “
A well-deserved award, for him, someone that inspires young people from all over the world to never give up.
“Never take No for an answer”
And I leave the final words to Ian: “The only advice I can give is to surround yourself with positive people. You have to believe in what you love and never take NO for an answer.
One must always have courage.
There are always two roads, one more difficult and one easier: maybe if you go down that more difficult road, you overcome the obstacles, then life becomes more beautiful. “
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