Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Autumn's World Cup Runneth Over.

On Sunday morning, central European time, France played New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup Final.

I went to the local market to buy some tomatoes.

It was very quiet.

I guess everyone was in the bar.

I guess, being as I live in France and that this happens – at best – once every four years, that I should have been there too but frankly I don’t like rugby.

When I was at primary school I played football, not brilliantly it must be said but I enjoyed it.

When I moved to secondary school we didn’t, rugby was the only game.

Well actually that is not strictly true – there was cricket too.

I fancied myself as a cricketer – let’s face it you can look pretty good in white – but at the trial when these things were decided, I failed to impress and was thrown into the Rugby team.

And since I could run faster than most, they put me on the wing.

The first year I had no problems; everyone was learning the game and so the ball never came anywhere near me, usually it failed to come out of the scrum – and no way was I going anywhere near that!

I quickly learned the difference between rugby and football.

In football if you have the ball then the other players try to take the ball away from you.

In rugby, if you have the ball the other players try to take you.

And it hurts.

So what is the point of having the ball?

In the second year the ball emerged from the scrum and started moving in my direction, but usually someone would kick it or drop it before it did.

In the third year it reached me, and I dropped it. No way was I going to hold it long enough for someone to hit me.

But by now I was in the school team – by default – and expected to perform.

So I developed a very realistic fake attempt at tackling that would leave me sprawled in the mud and my opponent confused.

All this came to an end one rainy south London Saturday morning.

We were on the coach, on our way to Streatham and a game against another school.

Other 15 year olds were safely – either, abed and not thinking of rising, or else doing one of several more interesting and pleasurable things.

A rumour started to circulate on the bus that the other school had a player who was in the England under-18 team.

We were nervous, if it was true he would be good – but then it was just a rumour and maybe not true.

It was true.

He played on the wing.

Opposite me.

He was enormous.

Black, athletic, enormous!

Everything I wasn’t!

The first time I received the ball he came up to me, blocked my passage with his black athletic enormity, took hold of my shirt and shook me.

Shook me!

Turned me to jelly!

I dropped the ball and he picked it up and ran in his first try.

I looked at my teammates, they turned away – they wanted no part in it either; they had seen the way he shook me, there was nothing in the training manuals about this.

It was the beginning of a very long, very humiliating afternoon.

It’s something I haven’t ever really gotten over – so on Sunday, I bought tomatoes.



Anne Hodgson said...

You should have joined the diving team, I sense a natural talent there. I was hopeless with a ball of any sort. I will never forget the humiliating day when I managed to throw the ball behind instead of in front of me. Butterfingers is my middle name.

popps said...

I don't know Anne but i think in Rugby throwing the ball BEHIND you is good!

Anonymous said...

hoping you dont through everything behind you?

Anonymous said...

i meant throw...silly me

popps said...

You may be silly, but that's no reason to throw you!