Monday, 1 July 2013

Die Blou Bul weet nie van verloor af nie /Die Blou Bul sukkel nie sy roer af nie /Nou vra jy my vir wie ek skree

I've successfully avoided watching rugby for the entire 15 years that we've been living in Pretoria. Not live, not on TV, not by listening to the match on the radio. I went to a cricket match once, but it was a 20/20 between two IPL teams, so it was short and I didn't know who was playing. And it wasn't rugby.

Rugby to me is always associated big men with thick necks ramming one another repeatedly. And by that I mean both the players and their fans. Maybe the fans just have the added padding of their beer bellies. It has never seemed like much fun. But in Pretoria rugby, and the Loftus Versveld stadium, is an institution: families and friends meet up hours before the match begins to braai (barbecue) a "vleisie" (a piece of meat), to drink some beers and socialise before heading into the stadium decked out in their blue kit and enjoying the match.

The local team is called the Blue Bulls, and from years of reading the news headlines on the lamp poles I believe they are one of the best teams in SA, maybe in the world. They seem to always win, but I have a feeling that it is because they are one of the wealthiest clubs and can thus afford to coax young, promising players away from clubs that do not have the same means.

This Saturday was the first time I went to Loftus to watch rugby. I'd been there in 2010 for one of the quarter finals of the soccer world cup, but it was an extremely boring, extremely long match between Japan and Paraguay and thus the place holds no fond memories. This time it was interesting to observe how much MONEY goes into rugby, or any sport for that matter.

The Blue Bulls have been renamed the Vodacom Bulls, because yes, you guessed it, they are sponsored by Vodacom. Thus the Vodacom branding is everywhere. And the fans are committed to buying blue jerseys, blue flags, blue caps, blue everything. One man even had a Blue Bull cushion to sit on. Adding ticket sales, TV sales, ad revenues, drink/food sales, etc. to the costs probably makes the sport quite a profitable business. I found it quite strange to think about how invested people become in a game that could theoretically be played anywhere and by anyone.

It is also fascinating to see which sports are popular in different countries: here, rugby, cricket and soccer dominate. I assume soccer is popular all over, but as an example handball is hardly known in Africa, whereas it is on probably the same level as soccer in Scandinavian countries. Or rugby even:  in America people don't even know what rugby is because of the popularity of American football.

Well, back to the game. As far as watching sports goes this was quite fun, but I won't go buy my seasonal tickets just yet.

Obama coming back from his day in Joburg maybe?

Like I said, a Blue Bulls cushion

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