Monday, 8 October 2007

Rugby Culture

I think like most sports fanatics, I perversely tend to take more pleasure in seeing the teams I hate lose rather than the teams I love win. That's probably why, when England beat Australia on Saturday, my elation at the final whistle (after the most pulsating, ridiculously tense game of rugby you'd ever see) was more in seeing the utter dejectedness of the arrogant Wallabies than in the joy of the English. Australian attitudes towards the English in sport often approach, I think, a kind of reverse-snobbery, where the English are always portrayed as snooty, prissy aristocrats strutting around looking down on everybody, while the humble Australian swagmen with their Waltzin' Matilda and cans of Castlemaine XXXX bravely and cheekily try to knock them off their perches. This paradigm is trotted out every single time an Australian sporting team face the English, despite the fact that, for years, their cricket and rugby teams have been light years better than the English. But no - the Australians are always the plucky underdogs and unfailingly on the side of the angels, and the English are the evil colonialist blue-blooded poms who deserve to lose.

So suck it up, Australia. We beat you, so there.

Even better was seeing France beat the All Blacks later that day. God, do I hate the New Zealand rugby team. Like Brazil in football, it's now reached the stage where the world's media have hyped their mystique so high that the players themselves have come to believe it, and turn up to every game and do their daft Haka and expect the opposition to just roll over and lament their own temerity for even bothering to turn up. Like Brazil, they usually spend the group stages of a World Cup thoroughly battering complete minnows like Romania, before meeting a team like France who have some guts and steel, whereupon they collapse like the arrogant bullies they are.

The Haka is the stupidest spectacle in sport, in any case. It comes from that same tradition that all the old British colonies seem to have, whereby an ancient culture that has been more or less totally stamped on and eradicated is then humiliated by having its heritage robbed by the same people who perpitrated the stamping. Like the boomerang, the didjeridoo, the head-dress and the totem pole, it's the product of a sort of colonial cultural ransacking; the final insult to the natives, whose once-treasured traditions are taken out of their hands to become a spectacle for tourists and TV cameras, and, in the case of the Haka, an Adidas commerical.

It makes me sick, and nothing made me love the French more for standing right up under the All Blacks' noses during the Haka in a co-ordinated tricolore, as if to say - "No, this is culture, you idiots."


mattiecore said...


noisms said...

It's a Maori war dance that the New Zealand rugby team perform before each game, after the anthems have been sung. They've been doing it for years, so it's now one of rugby's age-long traditions.

Samoa, Tonga and Fiji do similar war dances before their games, but they're at least justified in doing so since it really is their culture - not just a rip-off by silly white guys.