Saturday, February 14, 2009
Rugby: the gentlemen’s game
If there is one sport which continues to mystify me, it’s rugby.
I have never played the game. Nor ever came close to doing it. For, my boarding school in Perlis back then didn’t have a rugby field. In any case, Perlis was too small a state to have a proper inter-school rugby tournament.
But during my student days in the UK, during the rugby season, rugby match highlights received a lot of coverage. International matches between England and Scotland (traditional rival) and Wales (arch-rival?) could make the streets empty.
What intrigues me is the sight of burly, heavily-built men sprinting across the field as if they weigh half their actual weight. That, and the fact that these seemingly violent game manage to never invoke violence on and off the field.
Etiquette, it seems, is a large part of the game. Unlike what you see during soccer matches, the referee's judgment is never questioned.
The honour of the sport and mutual respect between teams is upheld regardless of how rough a game may be. Thus, the saying “rugby is a beastly game played by gentlemen; soccer is a gentleman's game played by beasts; football (American) is a beastly game played by beasts”.
May be this has to do with the origin of the sport. You see, rugby originated at an English public school. Perhaps a misnomer, ‘public schools’ are actually fee-charging private independent schools (read: schools for the rich, lah...).
It was said that in 1823, during a game of soccer at Rugby School in England, a 16 year old William Webb Ellis in disregard for the rules (or bored, perhaps) picked up the ball and ran with it. Apparently everyone must have agreed with him that it was much more fun. Soon the whole school adopted the new rules and word quickly spread. And so the game of rugby was born.
Since then it has spread to all over the world. The game enjoys its greatest popularity in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and France. And of course, it is the forerunner of American football.
Malaysia, being a commonwealth nation, is one of the earliest nations to play rugby (see here). In fact we host the world’s premiere rugby 10s tournament which is the COBRA 10 (see here).
The pics below show my son Syafiq during a match against his current college team (MRSM KKB) recently. His team comprises seniors presently waiting for their SPM result.
Being low on match fitness, as expected, the seniors were trounced 16 - 0!!! (maluuu...)