Friday, October 19, 2007

The Fever Called Rugby

Hmmm…Even I now have the rugby world cup fever here in Sweden. What a lovely fever it is! The only cure seems to be the intake of copious amounts of cold beer. I have already told my wife and kids to do all their talking to me now and get it over and done with because none will be allowed tomorrow night. I really am looking forward to this clash.

With all this excitement my mind started wandering and soon it took me back to the times of isolation of South Africa. The days when the Curry Cup final was the biggest event on the sporting calendar and provincialism was second only to religion. Hell, relationships failed during this time of the year because she/he supported the wrong province.

In the early 70’s the Free State Stadium, in Bloemfontein, was not the glowing monument to King Rugby as it is today. Even though the size of it was impressively huge one got reminded of the fact that it was still a simple affair. Its temporary stands brought you closer to your Maker during a strong wind as this scaffolding swayed and groaned alarmingly under the combined weight and strain of bloodthirsty, inebriated fans.

Right next to the stadium one found the caravan park. This was a very convenient arrangement as a lot of farmers would make a weekend outing to Bloemfontein when a big match was scheduled for the Saturday. Even some of the locals would go and pitch a tent as to get away from their wives for the weekend. Logically this caravan park was the venue of the biggest continuous party in Bloemfontein for that weekend and attracted quite a few “visitors” for a quick braai and a few brandies and coke.

Being a Western Province supporter, I was not really interested in the final between Free State and Northern Transvaal that particular year. A girlfriend however, got hold of some tickets for Saturday’s game and we were fortunate to sit in the very same corner where the Blue Bull winger, Pierre Spies, scored a magnificent try in the final seconds of the match and obliterated Free State’s hope of winning the trophy that year. It was brilliant rugby. It was an excellent match and we decided to stay put in our seats until most of the crowd has left the stadium as not to get caught up in the rush. We had a few oranges injected with vodka left so the wait was quite enjoyable.

When we eventually made our way through the caravan park towards my car most of the crowd were well on their way home and the braai fires were going full blast. The party to drown all sorrows had started. We passed a FIAT 128 and saw the feet of a sleeping man protruding from the back passenger side window. He was snoring nicely and one could detect that the previous Friday night party ensured that he never made it to the match. As we passed the car we heard the heart rendering shouts of another man looking for a friend called Maans. The pleading calls first emerged from inside the tent pitched next to the FIAT and the desperate, totally blotto, man was soon staggering all over the camp looking for Maans. My girlfriend, Margaret, caught up with him and worriedly enquired why he was looking for Maans. She got a very slurry response:

“I have to find Maans! Please help me find Maans! He’s got our tickets and we can not be late for the match.”

Hopefully I’ll keep my beer intake under control until kick-off tomorrow night.

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