Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rugby: Isn't it just a game?

Previously I wrote a blog in response to Greg Hurvitz article which came to my attention after my newsfeeds on Facebook was displaying hate comments, links, pictures etc towards said sports blogger. I ignored it at first (partly because I didn't have the time, and I thought it was one of those passing phases). But the day after checking my Facebook again, the negativity was still leaving skid marks on my newsfeeds and my brain. So I read the article, and I felt the same angst that my fellow Samoans were feeling, BUT, rather than reply straight away, and hone in on the instantly assumed strokes of racism prejudice, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, reflected on what I saw in the game, and compared it to what he was saying. Then I wrote to him.

To date, the odour of sourness is still meandering in the halls of social-networking, and I hate to say that we're possibly flirting with making our Samoa (known for its friendly people and a beautiful tourist destination) appear to be a people who are unable to tactfully handle injustices that the Manu Samoa were dealt, AND an opinion from an individual in South Africa. I see the frustration of some who replied to my blog (which was a copy of the original article by Greg Hurvitz), Facebook pages, YouTube comments, Tweets ranging from hating on Nigel Owens to IRB resulting in a volley of argumentative comments between Samoans (and their sympathisers) v Welsh/South African fans. And the majority of comments are unhealthy and are misrepresenting Samoans......yes Samoans! For some strange reason, I feel embarrassed when I read some of the comments that a hurled towards people from other countries. After all, it's rugby isn't it? Rugby is just a game right?

The facts are:

• The Manu Samoa had full-support and hopes from fans, believing they were strong contenders for at least Quarter finals (by their playing I reckon it could've been further)
• They were unfairly treated by the IRB
• Sapolu has been left hung out to dry by the SRU
• and (some of) the management are a reflection of dare I say typical administration when it comes to Samoans performing in "Palagi" policies and formalities.
• The World Cup 2011 campaign is over for Manu Samoa
• They played awesome rugby

BUT it begs to ask the question. Is it really about the game? NO I don't think so. Samoan person reading this right now, you would agree that we feel, that because of our so-called physicality, athletic, artistic and musical abilities...oh and good looks coupled with a public display of being funny, charming and hospitable, incredibly hospitable. That our ability to think and assess situations is where we are "getting hoodwinked" is overlooked right?

I have no idea how Rugby Union became a political playing field, but I have an inkling that the film "Invictus" may have given us a bit of insight to what it meant for South Africa in 1995. I remember being gutted that my hero Jonah Lomu couldn't pull off the world cup win. But after watching that film I thought, yeah the Springboks deserved that cup. (Crazy huh?)

My theory is, IRB hadn't expected the Manu Samoa to come to the world cup in immaculate form, and neither did the Samoan fans. In the lead up to the World Cup, the Wallabies Test was the only true measure to see how the well the players played together. And big ups to the Wallabies for constantly allowing the Manu Samoa to play against them year in, year out. The result blew the fish out of the water because they were an amazing outfit. The Manu Samoa then carried the hopes and dreams of nearly every Samoan accross the globe, to show the world that such a humble little nation is capable of big things. And the IRB became the tyrant that wanted to stunt their success by manouvering and manipulating. The first indicators of our expressed frustration and wayward support came as an attack to the ref and Lavea in the Welsh game, and then the gloves came off and literally the fans became a "manu feai" when the Manu Samoa lost to the Springboks.

Could it be that at closer analysis, this represents our walk in life? Where teachers, bosses, administrators etc don't expect you to achieve too much because the stereotypical Samoan is only successful in physicality, athletic, artistic and musical abilities? Undercutting the fact that you're able to strive for bigger things? And rather than the Manu Samoa having a happy ending like "Invictus" it became more like an "Enviction"? I certainly hope this is the case, otherwise our passion for the game is probably more intense then Gregs.

However they haven't gone silently in this eviction as Sapolu has spoken up and looks like he will continue to do so. Sapolu's tweets may have come accross to some Samoans as free reign to insult every IRB committee member, Nigel Owens, Welsh, South Africans etc which I'm certain wasn't Sapolu's intentions. Although I don't fully support the way Sapolu has gone about it, Sapolu knows what he's doing, so let him do what he does, he's got the smarts, has tact, and a passion for rugby, he was right in amongst it and he is human so his tweets may have been a knee-jerk reaction and/or a deliberate bait to the media to get his word out like he wanted.

How long will we hover over this corpse? Let the Manu Samoa Campaign 2011 Rest In Peace, and allow us to reflect on the montage of well-played games that showed an honourable team followed by a flawless obituary. Let Sapolu represent the case in question, and win the jury to a just decision. And allow yourself the pleasure of knowing that the Manu Samoa is not a manifestation on how your life will pan out. If you want to see a team of Samoans that should represent how to handle injustices, look no further then "The Mau" They would advise the frustrated fan to quit with the verbal threats and unnecessary banter, and if you're up for the challenge, try not to think about it. There are plenty of other ways to express your thoughts and feelings, like through your artistic and musical abilities?

The Mau were up against bigger players than the IRB, and their World Cup Finale win is forever etched in the history of Samoa. In the words of the late Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III whose last words were spoken after he was shot and killed at a peaceful demonstration - "Samoa filemu pea si ou toto nei tauvalea a ia aoga a lau ola mo lenei mea".

An eloquent interpretation: "My blood has been spilt for Samoa. I am proud to give it. Do not dream of avenging it, as it was spilt in peace. If I die, peace must be maintained at any price"

This was said for the sake of "Samoa mo Samoa" (Samoans will govern Samoans). Surely we can apply the same principle to the Manu Samoa at RWC 2011, I mean Rugby is just a game right?

So rather than express our frustrations, and misrepresent the character of the Samoan people, take a deep breath, figure out why you're taking this so personally, refrain from the profane, cop it on the chin, and contribute towards making Samoa the "attratction" that it truly is.

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