For the last month and a half, our little country of New Zealand has been host to the Rugby World Cup - a tournament between the top 20 rugby nations of the world. About this time last year, my dad, seeing this as an opportunity to be a part of something big, asked the family if we wanted to attend the World Cup through a package deal which would get us tickets to every pool games being held at the local stadium. I remember how I felt at the time - rather reluctant and not as enthusiastic as I could've been. I thought about it and finally settled on saying 'yes' to the idea, forking over a large sum of money to my dad, large enough for the bank to wonder if the transfer was legit.
I'm not the biggest rugby, or even sports person in my family. If there was a game on you're very likely to find my mum and/or brother shouting obscenities at the television if things aren't going their way, or just shouting at the television if things are going their way, and me cleaning-up the table and washing the dishes all by myself if it happens to be that we've just had dinner. This happened a lot when I lived with my family, not it only happens if I'm over for the weekend.
The year passed, September came around and with it, a crapload of tourists descended on our little city. Now I don't mind the tourists, but there was just something a little different about this bunch - they were mostly wearing their country colours, proudly proclaiming from where they were and who they're supporting. I thought it was kinda neat seeing so many people supporting their country, but for my first Rugby World Cup game, it wasn't a New Zealand one, but South Africa vs Wales.
I have virtually no connection to either South Africa or Wales: I have a friend from South Africa, and a temp who worked in our building years ago during her OE is from Wales. That was pretty much it. But I liked what I was seeing happening on the streets of our city: people here flying their colours and who were actually here to watch the rugby, as opposed to all those other occasions where the main event has taken a back seat to just another reason to party, eg: The Melbourne Cup, The Rugby Sevens, and any event with the word 'tasting' in it.
So I thought I'd get into it, and crowd-sourced my allegiance to Facebook and Twitter:
The response was overwhelmingly in favour of Wales, so in the days leading-up to the game, I bought a Welsh flag-cape and brought it with me to the game.
It wasn't the first time I'd been in the stadium, but it was the first time I'd been in the stadium when it was full, and the atmosphere was so much more electric than the smaller crowds I'd normally been a part of. I fell-in with the crowd so easily and within minutes I was shouting, chanting, standing, clapping, mexican-waving, and going all-out at the top of my lungs and whatever the equivalent is for arm-waving. I was louder than the rest of my family and I surprised myself at how quickly I got into the swing of things.
The game was great, and I really thought we (Wales) were gonna win; the score being so close and everything. I had a helluva time, and was sad to have to part from it and go back to my apartment, sleep, and then go to work the next day (it was a Sunday night game).
We had more games to go to, and this carried on for another 3 weeks: I picked a side to go for, I got a little souvenir for that side to take to the game, I went to the game and supported that team until my throat ran dry. I was a mercenary selling my support to whichever team I wanted (usually the underdog) and I had a blast every time I did it. The last game we had tickets for was a New Zealand game, so I did get the opportunity to cheer for my own country for once.
That last game was over 2 weeks ago, and even though I haven't attended a game since, I've been watching the games with friends or family, choosing a side (when it wasn't a New Zealand game) and trying to be the best fan I can. I'm still not the biggest sports person in the family, but I've really got into the swing of things with the Rugby World Cup.
I guess it also helps that New Zealand is in the final for this weekend, for the first time since... what, 1995?
After the South Africa vs Wales game all those weeks ago, I brought my Welsh flag cape to work and pinned it to the divider beside my desk. People pass by and wonder aloud who the Wales supporter is, obviously not drawing the link between myself and Wales because I extremely un-Welsh-looking :P When I hear those comments though, I just smile and think how glad I am to have chosen to go to the rugby after all.