Rugby: the game that unites

Tbilisi, Georgia, June 2012

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It was a Saturday morning, The All Blacks (New Zealand Rugby National Team) were going to play against the Irish, no way in hell Robin was going to miss on that. Still hangovered from two days before we were happy to go to the pub with him. He lend us a pair of black T-shirts and like a gang of friendly hooligans we set off with his all black dog called Molly to watch the game.

“Three Bloody Mary’s for breakfast and three chachas”. Robin ordered for us. I was already drunk again from the smell of my drink. Annika had less trouble than me zipping the drink, although she had drunk much more the day before when we conquered the title of World Beer Pong Masters in a Tournament in the Backpackers Pub.

The TV was programmed, the Irish owner of the pub, a small but deep voiced woman called Rebecca, dressed up in green for the game. She interchanged cordial salutes to the New Zealander Robin:“The Irish will take you down kiwi scum bag”, she shouted in her customer’s face. Robin respectfully replied “The All Blacks will eat the Irish before they can learn to say kiwi”. And so it hit me, the drink I mean, after that I realized the importance and the passion of an unknown world to me, the world of Rugby.

As the game went on Robin briefly explained to us the simple rules of the game. In my eyes Rugby will always be a combination of soccer and American football although rugby’s history is placed somewhere in between. The rules are simple: get the ball to the opposing side of your team. The catch is, you cannot throw the ball to your team mate forward, only backwards. You can only advance by either running with the ball or kicking it to the other side. When you do so, you must fight for the control of it with the opposing team. Whoever takes the ball more times to the opposing side wins. The score is called a Try and it is worth 5 points. There are other rules but the essence of the game is pure and hard man power.

After two more Bloody Mary’s and one breakfast-beer the game ended in a crushing advantage of the All Blacks. “Roberto, in New Zealand there is only one religion, it is called Rugby”, Robin cheered at the end of the game. Happy, drunk and cheerful we were about to receive a very big surprise. Robin was invited to attend the Georgians National Team game that same afternoon against the rival Ukraine. The best thing: Annika and I were also invited..

We grabbed a taxi and Robin´s friends Zuker and his brother came along with us. We bought a pair of beers and a Georgian flag to wave for the Lelos (nickname for the Georgian National Team), ranked 14th in the world of rugby and escalating quickly. Families and friends gathered outside the small but nicely build rugby stadium. Kids practiced with the ball and the excitement could be felt before the game.

The game was about to start National anthems were sung. The Georgian team was dressed in red and the opposing Ukraine in blue. It was a beautiful site, a show of man´s pride and power. The protocol ended and the warriors set off for the starting kick. The game began. Even though it was our first ever rugby game we were completely swamped with the game and its passion. Georgia was the first to score, and we truly cheered like locals. We blended with the crowd, the beers kept coming in, even from stranger’s hands. We all padded our backs and felt happy that we were lucky enough to be there. In that same game Robin cheered along with her morning rival Rebecca. It seems the place they now share as their home (Georgia) unites them more than there morning rugby rivalry.

In the end Georgia won, but the crowd applauded cheerfully for the brave Ukrainian team. Sports unite people, let us not forget what Nelson Mandela and the South African rugby team taught to the world.

Cheeri-Oh for rugby and Cheeri-Oh for what it does for mankind.

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