08 June 2010

National Passions

One of them, certainly, is rugby, a relative of which is Australian Football. (On a side note, I really feel bad for the name football, getting tacked on to three different sports like cheap scotch tape. Poor football)

June starts rugby season here, and on dusky evenings, fields are filled with running, impressively built men in disturbingly short shorts. Last Saturday, for a bit of fun, Mark and I hitchhiked down to the main rugby field in the middle of the island to watch the weekly Saturday playoffs of each town's team. The field is a large rectangle of grass across the road from a main Wesleyan church, and is bordered by a two-story building with overhanging balconies facing the field where everyone was gathered to watch.

Although it has definitely seen better days, the structure was apparently built specifically for rugby, although I'm not sure what it's dark, cavernous interior would be used for. It's the closest thing that 'Eua has to a stadium.
We walked up alongside the field, hearing shouts and whoops, smelling burning rubbish in the air from some considerate neighbor to the field who perhaps was silently protesting the sport. We payed the $1 entrance fee (about 50 cents USD) and went to find a spot, standing at a window in the shade of the building. Surprisingly, no one had brought barbecue, snacks, or food of any kind, except for the women in front of us chewing on sticks of sugar cane.

I don't understand much about the sport, so I won't disgrace it by explaining what we saw,
but we started to understand the purpose of the scrums, what a foul constituted, and some of the strategies, by watching and talking to people that Mark knew from school. We got a kick out of the scrums, (and the hand signal for it), because it looks like a squat turtle of human bodies, shifting and writhing until it suddenly breaks up when a player emerges with the ball.

Despite our negligible knowledge of the sport, we had great fun, and reflected that it was the only gathering that we've attended in Tonga that wasn't heavily formalized and scripted. We had fun watching people get into it, whooping and hollering, gasping when a close pass was made, laughing and talking on the sidelines under the roof shade or in front of their cars. The event started early in the morning, and lasted til mid-afternoon, but we left after about an hour and a half, having had enough watching for the week of head-butts and pile-ons.


  1. The pictures are incredible, especially that first one! I feel like the highest-up guy in the blue is about to break his collar bone... And no pads! Looks like this puts American football machismo to shame.

  2. Yeah, we love the first one too! Mark was the photographer and I was the photo editor, haha. It is a dangerous sport- people die every year in small numbers from the wrong collision.


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