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The Haka – What’s Good for One Team….

October 27, 2011

I’m going to upset some New Zealand rugby fans with this post.

I’m delighted for the All Blacks that they won the Rugby World Cup. It’s always a disappointment for the host nation when their team doesn’t win, even if the watching world might sneer about home advantage.

But what is this absurd reverence for the Haka – the eye-popping, chest thumping, thigh slapping ritual that precedes every All Blacks match? Even the sport’s administrators connive in it by regularly fining opposing teams  that come up with a similarly aggressive response. They did it again a couple of days ago by fining the French team £2,500 for linking arms and edging forwards in a V formation.

The London Times reports that Ma’a Nopu, the New Zealand centre commented on a previous infraction by the Welsh thus: “People back home will have been hurt by what they decided to do. Standing in the way they did is asking for a fight.”

So it’s OK that opposing teams should have to stand by meekly while fifteen bruisers built like brick outhouses spew torrents of testosterone, giving the distinct impression that they are about to disembowel the opposition?

Mike Miller, the Chief Executive of the International Rugby board was also reported as saying that “these cultural aspects of the game are important. We should respect them.”

Well, I’m sorry, as a casual observer who has little respect for the cultural aspects of a sport in which my only experience was one term at school  – during which I regularly ended up struggling to breathe at the bottom of a pile of writhing, smelly teenage bodies, having the crap kicked out of me in an orgy of licensed sadism –  I beg to differ.

If we must pay deference to national cultures at the beginning of a rugby international, why not allow other teams their moments? The English for example. How about a ritual raising of two fingers in the direction of the opposition, followed by simulated lifting of beer glasses, drunken staggering and fondling of breasts? The French? Surely hands poised to gouge the eyes and remove the testicles. The Welsh? Well, some ritual involving the abuse of sheep would do them nicely. And what if the South Africans enacted a Zulu war dance, reminding opponents of the massacre at Isandlwana? I could go on, but you get my drift.

I’m only joking of course. Racial stereotypes have no place in sport, as our England soccer players will eagerly testify.

Sport is sport. It is not war. Cultural rituals don’t belong on the rugby field or any other field, for that matter. Leave them to the gorillas and the rutting stags. Rugby is violent enough.

I guess that rules out my ever getting a visa to visit New Zealand. Shame – it seems like a very nice country.

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