06 Apr

Clapping The Losers In

To me, rugby football seems less of a waste of time than soccer. Being Welsh, and with Wales looking on course for a grand slam victory in this year’s Six Nations Tournament, I was glad to watch the Wales-Ireland final on satellite TV in Maputo, Mozambique. March 19th, 2005. With four colleagues I went to a bar with four TV sets, two for the rugby, two for some soccer.

Around one table were half a dozen British expatriates; two wore rugby shirts, one Wales, the other England, the rest of the blokes neutral. Mr England Shirt was probably mourning his nation’s performance. Anyway, Ireland did well, but Wales gained an early lead and final victory. As my compatriots consumed buckets of lager, my group rather anaemically stuck to lemonade, not that we were quieter or less enthused by the game than they.

At school, I was tall, very short sighted and destined to play second row forward. This is when your head gets squashed between first row buttocks in the scrums and your shoulders ache from pushing hard to get possession of the ball. Once that was over, I used to run around the field unable to see the ball, let alone work out what to do if it ever came my way. The school seemed convinced we had imbibed the rules of rugby football with our mothers’ milk, such was the lack of instruction. One winter Thursday afternoon, the Religious Education master showed an un-Christianly cruel streak when he asked if I was enjoying the afternoon walk around the field. May he rest in perpetual soccer.

When the school team played, it was customary for the winning side to line up and clap the losers in. “Magnanimous in victory, gracious in defeat,” thundered the headmaster at one assembly when we rejoiced too enthusiastically about a 60 point lead by our first fifteen.

Wales clapped Ireland in. It warmed my heart to think that old fashioned courtesies still exist. And this memory was triggered off the other morning when I read in the Bible—in Proverbs chapter 24—Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him.

I’m still wondering how the good Lord saw the Wales-Ireland match. And I confess to rejoicing, just a bit. My daughter-in-law is Irish.

6 April, 2005