Saturday, July 3, 2010


With no real knowledge a few weeks back I made a rash prediction, the World Cup Football final would be Brazil against Germany. This morning Brazil was beaten by the Netherlands. Tomorrow Argentine will quite likely eliminate Germany. So much for the amateur soothsayer. But I’m a casual onlooker. The nationalistic fervour aroused by the games is striking. There’ll be keening throughout black Africa now that Ghana has lost to Uruguay in a penalty shoot-out.

What has surprised me watching snippets of the various matches is the rough play, jersey pulling, professional fouls, dodgy tackles all topped off with Hollywood performances – many of those guys deserve an Oscar. I had an old-fashioned belief that soccer was more sportsman-like than rugby. Not now.

Even netball has become more physical – the barging, charging and pushing is most unladylike. Not the court behaviour of my co-ed school days.

I was very impressed as a young man when on the first day of a cricket test the opening English batsman was given out almost first ball. Walter Hadlee, the Kiwi captain pursued him , invited him back, told the umpires the catch had not been taken. Washbrook went on to score a century. The crowd agreed, that was sportsmanship. Ah, the good old days. Winning wasn’t everything. Tell that to Graham Henry.

I’ve been admiring the tennis players. Roger Federer saying his opponent, who had lost,deserved to win. I’ve even seen players applaud a good stroke from the other end. That’s cricket by my book.

Those good old days. Th two teams ran out to the field together. They shook hands. The ref blew the whistle. When he ended the game the players shook hands again, gave three cheers and often fraternised in the changing rooms. The activity had its own interest. Spectators applauded good play from both sides.

Sport is now big business. The dollar rules. I understand though I do not approve drug cheats. Throwing a match in return for a large monetary reward must be a temptation to people whose route from poverty has been via their sporting skill. A bonus for a win means that success might be sought by foul means as well as fair.

Ah, in my tirade I forgot the Springbok tour of 1956. It is hard now to explain the primitive fervour with which much of the population wanted those 'Boks humbled. Legend had it that New Zealand outplayed them on the veldt in 1949, but biased refs and their big kicker, Geffin, unfairly took the series from us. This "we wuz robbed" theory fed enough New Zealand paranoia to dominate the middle of that year. We were a small country but by heaven we could beat these neo-Fascists from a land which did not accept the equality of men. Our mood was tribal.

And don’t mention the ‘under-arm’. An evening of shame. I’m no better or worse. Rum as a drink has never appealed to me. Whiskey does. Bob-sleigh leaves me ho-hum. Whereas rugby I get involved. We each have our own poison.

A player can be a champion or a villian, or more likely a mixture of both. It is us who participate vicariously who help create the climate in which their competition takes place. The Springboks play here shortly.

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