So apparently there was a guy in some posh school in the Midlands who during a perfectly good game of football decided to pick up the ball with his hands. If someone did this in my school, they would have got a kicking. But it seems like the rest of his classmates quite liked it, so jumped on him, raked their studs (if these were invented at this time) and rucked him. Since then the ball turned into an egg, some Northerners got angry and created their own, simpler version of rugby, vast quantities of Guiness have been consumed and a World Cup was invented…and that is where TimmyBacsi is now. In Wales. Watching rugby. Let’s scrum. (Actually, I am in dark Denmark two weeks hence).
A double header of rugby matches in the fun loving capital of Wales with good friends was too much to resist. So tickets were bought, flights booked and holidays taken.
That ball is not round.
Believably, this was the first time watching rugby since I was dropped to the bench playing for my Middle School almost two decades ago. I was not much of a rugby player. My highlights were few and far between. I think this came down to the fact that I was very protective of my face as a teenager and being trampled on by the school’s fat kids was not fun. I avoided this by always offloading the ball before the hit. This can be translated as throwing the ball away in sheer panic because I am scaredy cat. Anyway after I was left out of the team (by mutual consent) by school went on to lose the Bedfordshire School Cup Final 76-0. I suspect that this was directly caused by lack of quick offloading on the left wing. I may be wrong.
Home for a couple of days was to be Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium next to the frankly magnificent Arms Park, which had been converted into a giant pub. A giant pub in a city full of pubs is a wonderful thing when there is rugby to be watched. (That should be adage.)
Gy is all over the place. I just told her that there are five offside rules
We rocked up in Cardiff on the chariot of King: Megabus. We were even lucky enough to awaken the child inside by getting to sit at the front of the bus on the top deck. I felt a bit queasy though so soon regretted my initial excitement. Cardiff was thronging so we did a little wander before (conveniently) stumbling on an excellent beer bar within a projectile vomit of the stadiums. Some minor communications difficulties via a Danish and Singaporean mobile meant that we had to neck a bottle of warm Carlsberg before stumbling into the Arms Park to meet our good friends Simon and Olya (who had flown from Singapore to Wales to see us/the rugby/family (possibly not in that order)) and Simon’s wonderful Mum, Alexandra. Reacquaintances were made and we set to explain to Gy the rules. We did not get very far beyond the fact there was more than one variation of the offside rule at which point she necked her pint and spear tackled a passing Aussie (or something like that).
First game was Wales-Fiji. The problem with this game was the enormous amount of Welsh people. Not that I don’t have a soft spot for those from the other side of the Severn, it just meant that the vast amount of people had a real vested interest in the game. As we all know vested interest turns into misguided passion (I spoke from a person in the know.) Also Gy and I were supporting Fiji primarily we had spent much of the early 2000s ‘Feel[ing] the power of Fiji’. I speak for myself and this is a reference to trance ‘classic’ by Atlantis vs. Avatar.
At this point, I should add that you should not take luggage to a professional sporting event outside the Hungarian First Division. It gets in the way.
Rugby is a trick one to watch because a) the rules are a little beyond me and b) it is quite hard to see what goes on at the breakdown sat in a big old stadium. That said Fiji kept themselves in the game, but were always a score away from really getting themselves in the game. The occasional Fiji, Fiji chant had a distinctly English accent to it. Fortunately, the guys around us thought we were from Denmark. No idea why? Or how they did not pick my accent?
Learning how to scrum
Wales 23 Fiji 13
The next day was a cracker. Sun beating down as we went for a rather testing run around the hills of Southern Mid-Wales and the lovely town of Crickhowell. This was followed by breakfast and a quick couple in a lovely riverside pub before getting a taxi back into Cardiff. This was the big one. New Zealand against Georgia. As regular readers will know, I have a passion for Georgia that stretches back well before one of TimmyBacsi’s first away days in Tbilisi. Well, this passion for all things khachapuri, lobio, drinking from horns, cha cha and Stalin(?) is one that was shared by all five of us. It was all an excuse to dress up like an overenthusiastic Englishman.
Take that New Zealand. We booed your coach.
Believe it or not, but Georgia has a reasonable history in rugby with their own game ‘lelo’ sharing various similarities. As Soviet folk sport historian, Yuri Lukhashin explains:
“The game took place over a wide area sometimes stretching for several kilometres on very rough ground. The contestants would have to contend with spurs, hills, valleys, woods. cascading streams and marshes. Their task was to get a ball into a certain place, say, over the settlement boundary or to the foot of the mountain. Any means necessary could be employed to drive the ball forward — feet or hands. Sometimes they would play the game on horseback.”
It sounds really pleasant. Anyway, the modern form of the game developed into something with great similarity to rugby so Georgia has been able to adapt pretty well to the sport. This is probably helped by their love of drinking.
Only real Georgians carry around massive Georgian flags.
New Zealand on the other hand are the Brazil of rugby. Except more successful. So we were looking at a fairly one sided game, but less vested interest, which would mean more fun. Our day followed a similar path except with added merchandise buying. Beer in the pub before beer in the big stadium pub before beer in the stadium.
Pregame, but post-rousing rendition of თავისუფლება (had to get those letters in), we were treated to the haka. In brief, a Maori war dance challenging the opposition to battle. It is pretty impressive, but as Gy put it, ‘it is just some men shouting’. There is a slight feeling that the whole thing has become an almost parody of itself (see excellent montage). That said, I enjoyed it. Possibly due to the tight, short shorts of the All Blacks (Gy wrote that I promise!)
The Haka. Grr.
Georgia scored a try!!! And quite early in the game. That was the highlight. Georgia actually had the temerity to play a second XV because they knew that victory in their last game against Namibia would give them automatic qualification to the next World Cup. New Zealand fielded some iconic players in Richie McCaw and Dan Carter. In the end, New Zealand were too strong for the current holders of the Antim Cup. (What is the Antim Cup, you ask? The Antim Cup is an annual contest between the rugby teams of Georgia and Romania and is named after named after the Metropolitan of Hungro-Wallachia Anthim the Iberian, who was originally a Georgian and a shared symbol of both countries Orthodox tradition. Put that in your knowledge pipe.)
So that was the rugby. I really enjoyed it. Prefer football, but this was a special occasion with much laughter, scrumming and dancing. Special thanks to all the Parsons for making us feel so welcome.
Engaging with the Welsh front line
New Zealand Lots Georgia Less than lots
We travelled back to Denmark via London where I met Zoltar the fortune teller, who told me that Hungary were going to qualify for Euro 16 automatically. Zoltar, you little tease. Wait what is that…