From the deep depths of a rough bandstand I can see the players eyes, wide and maniacal, their tongues stick straight out of open mouths, in accordance with the traditional challenge. Native Maori tattoos decorate massive arms on even larger men. Arms that slap and move collectively in perfect rhythm.
It looks scary as hell.
I cant imagine what how it would feel to be a member of the French team, facing these giants from inches away. The name for the tradition is The Haka, every island team has their own rendition, preformed before rugby games as both a challenge and form of intimidation. Whatever you do, dont mistake it as a “dance”.
The banner above the gates of our modest rugby pitch reads, “Classic All Blacks vs. Classic France”. The players of past years brought out for a last display of demolition. Some of the players look older than the others, their runs down the pitch looking more lopsided after the thirtieth minute. Grey hair dots the field on both sides, but there is no doubt in their ability. These men are truly masters of their game, for what they lack in speed they redeem in pure skill. Perfect spirals spin from their hands, like master potters shaping clay, the movements are instinctive.
The frenchy’s on the balcony reek of croissants and red wine, clad in blue they cheer for the opposition, in a sea of black. There are things here you would expect; bands of kids cover in dust run unsupervised and teenager salk on the fringes, dressed in black, making it hard to tell if they are supporting the home team or are just trying to be emo. Other things are less expected: only two police officers to oversee a crowed of thousands, their eyes fixed on the game, all the while men stumble around with concession beer sold to them in half 12 packs. Literally,12 packs of beer cut in half, sold at concession for super market price, along with sausages in white bread with onion and sweet chili sauce. There is a strangely Americana feel to the whole event, like a high-school football game with less drama and testosterone.
No one gets out of hand, each side has a chance to cheer, despite the home-side winning by a healthy margin. Must have been the Haka.