Monday, March 09, 2009

Rugby, a state religion

On Saturday afternoon a crowd gathered at Loftus, house of worship for the Bulls Super 14 team. Their opponents, the Stormers. This particular Saturday game though was no ordinary game. From the start of the day it was obvious that many people were coming to settle a score against a Stormers player, one Luke Watson. While an average player, Luke Watson has been mired in controversy ever since his forced inclusion in the 2007 Bok training squad and his subsequent no show during our very successful World Cup campaign. And then there's that speech of his, the one where he said he felt wearing the green and gold was a burden, and that he struggled to stop himself vomiting on it.

For other religious practitioners, this would be akin to denying the existence of Jesus. You don't mess with the green and gold. You also don't say that you want to puke on the Bok jersey, unless of course you have a death wish.

Now I am a staunch Stormers supporter, part of a legion of religious fanatics who take our team, and our game, very seriously, even though I no longer live in Cape Town. It is not in the phsyche of a Stormers supporter to boo at his or her team members, ever. Newlands faithful have never been a booing type of supporter. It is considered bad taste. That is more a tactic practiced by our arch enemies, Bulls supporters, you know the type of fan I mean...one who boos his own players, one who is fickle in his support. Newlands faithful have always been there for their team, even in the worst rain storms, the worst game droughts where a losing streak seems to carry on forever.

Going into the stadium in my white and blue shirt posed no problem. The good-natured ribbing from Bulls fans was to be expected. After all, we'd have done the same if this had been Newlands instead. Sitting amongst all those people though...and the stadium was bursting...it felt lekker to see that even though we were two opposing religious fanatical sides, we had one thing in common. Our intense dislike for Mr Watson in his arrogant belief that he is akin to a god in the rugby arena who can go unpunished for his utterings.

There were supporters on both sides sporting logos on t-shirts like LUKE YOU MAKE US PUKE.....LUKE YOU ARE A P**S, not to mention banners all over the stadium proclaiming just what supporters wanted to do to Luke Watson.

The game started well enough, the teams ran onto the field of play and the crowd half heartedly booed. After all, the Bulls supporter is typically against any team other than his own. All the way through until just before the first half ended, the crowd booed whenever Luke managed to get his hands anywhere near the ball. Then in the 36th minute...

Luke was caught by a Bulls player on the side line. The crowd took this opportunity to boo even harder and with more enthusiasm than they had been up until that point. Luke lost it, waving his hands at the crowd only to be booed harder, and to be laughed at. I don't know which was worse, the booing or the laughter. Either way, I found myself and all the Stormers supporters around me boooing and laughing along with the Bulls supporters.

Luke, you should have expected the entire country to be booing you. You insulted not only Dutchmen but an entire grouping of people who love the game, a game that has not only united all colours of this Rainbow Nation of ours, but one that has given us a purpose on a Saturday afternoon for much of the year.

Once again, you have acted before thinking, and once again you have fallen far short of what it means to be a rugby player in this country. The Boks carry the hopes of an entire nation and while the Super 14 franchise is only between clubs at a premier level, each team carries the hopes of their regional supporters. Fanatically religious supporters at that. We never forget. We never forgive.

You might turn out to be a better player at some point in your future but you will never have this fan's support.

1 comment:

wendy said...

Well said!!

Rugby in South Africa is not JUST a sport but a way of life!!

I fly my flag, I paint my face!
This player....it's just a disgrace.

Good article my friend!!