Mhambi has been redeployed.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Rugby, parochialism and identity

Besides the Springboks, every self respecting rugby supporter should have some other teams, underdogs, to support. But how to select them? Let your sense of justice and prejudice be your guide. Mhambi is supporting Portugal, perhaps Italy and Argentina.

Why Portugal?

Well, Portugal has strong links with Southern Africa. Think Preggo roles, Bez Valley, and Nandos. And if the rugby bug bites in Portugal, it might also find fertile ground in Angola and Mozambique. And perhaps Brazil will take notice of the oval ball. Phoar!

The BBC says of Portugal's intellectual coach:

A back injury forced Tomaz Morais into premature retirement and the former international, a published author and a university professor, has since become a successful coach. He was shortlisted for the IRB's Coach of the Year Award in 2004 and has helped revolutionise rugby in the country.

So how about Italy? They have progressing nicely. And some Italians reckon rugby is the perfect antidote to being Italian.

La Republica says: Rugby, the anti-football that might save Italy

"We rugby fans have a dream: to see the representatives of the Italian
State go and watch the match on September 8th between Italy and New
Zealand in Marseille, for we are utterly convinced that Italy needs
rugby", exclaims the journalist Giusseppe d'Avanzo, as the Rugby World
Cup is about to begin in France this September 7th. "Rugby remains a
mystery for Italians. ... Often it is presented with a rhetoric that
renders it unrecognisable. ... It is everything but chaos and madness.
... It requires a community spirit and reason. It excludes cunning
artifice, arrogance and cynicism, for it is a loyal sport, despite, or
perhaps thanks to its violence. Could one imagine anything less
Italian? Each characteristic of rugby is in contrast with Italian
specificity. ... This is why we like to think that this sport, so far
from our national identity, can set an example for reform."

But no, Mhambi will cheer Argentina.

Why Argentina?

Argentina has been playing good rugby for decades, but poised to take the step up to be one of the big six countries. Mhambi likes being broadly parochial: Argentina are from the Southern hemisphere, and not another English speaking country. A strong Argentina will lead to a more diverse Rugby World.

The UK Guardian says of Argentina:

Argentina has been described as a nation of people who speak Spanish, have Italian names and aspire to English gentility. This is palpably false if you've been to the Boca district of Buenos Aires, but one English sensibility which the Pumas bring to rugby is their enduring love of the scrum and battle up front. Andy Robinson's reign as England head coach was brought to an end at Twickenham last November by a ferocious Puma pack. All are ball handlers; alongside Mario Ledesma and Marcos Ayerza or Omar Hasan, Rodrigo Roncero can take on the best front rows in the game and still find his way to the try line from 30 metres out.

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