Two OEMC-directors. Left, Rui Machado (OEMC 2017); right, Marco Foschi (OEMC 2011).

PÓVOA DE VARZIM, Portugal – These are hectic days for Rui Manuel Machado, the flamboyant director of the Open European Mahjong Championship 2017. Today, he has a training with the volunteers who will assist him during the the event, which will burst loose next week. And there’s still lots of other things to do.

It is a remarkable thing for Portugal to organize the MCR championship. The small country may be the reigning European football champion, it may have recently won the Eurovision Song Contest 2017, but mahjong is a rather unknown phenomena in the country. In fact, there is not even one Portuguese player on the list of competitors to the OEMC. The EMA Players Gallery lists just five Portuguese, one of whom resides in the Netherlands.

On the other hand, the yearly mahjong tournaments which are organized in the seaside resort Póvoa de Varzim, are quite popular amongst players from all over Europe. This is due to the fact that they count for the Spanish-Portuguese Iberian Cup, but that’s just half of the story. Mahjong players like the special atmosphere in Póvoa, and of course they like Rui machado.

Rui Machado (2nd from r.) in the OEMC 2011 at Mestre, Italy.

Mestre, 2011

I met Rui for the first time during the OEMC 2011 in Italy, which I covered as a reporter for Mahjong News. The competition started on a Friday – without Rui Machado. He arrived one day late in the Italian heat, running and transpiring, but smiling and happy as never before. “I thought it started today”, he laughed, just before taking his seat at the table and starting to play as if nothing special had happened. From that day on, we became friends; it never takes long to become friends with Rui Machado.

The Player’s card (draft version).

All ideas and projects concerning the OEMC 2017 come from the brain of Rui, but he has lots of friends to help him realizing them. The pretty poster of the championship, the special tiles – including the Bird, the Bamboo 1 of the set, which has taken the shape of the Portuguese rooster – but also the table plan and many other things.

“The prizes will not be big”, he says, “but the welcome bag will please all players. And… all players will receive a trophy! There will be some more surprises, but you cannot publish about them until the opening day.”

He does all this in his casual, Latin style, which makes you wonder if he will get it all done in time. But he always gets it done, together with his volunteers – maybe not in your way, but surely in his own, Rui Machado way.

Bookstore restaurant

The ‘Bookstore Restaurant’, where the mahjong players can take their meals.
The table plan. 

The OEMC will take place in the Casino at Póvoa de Varzim. Rui proudly shows the table plan he has designed for the hall of the OEMC. “We have two extra tables, so some small corrections will be necessary.” The coffee breaks will be in the players hall; the smokers amongst them can enjoy their addiction in the adjacent room.

  

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