A great celebration of sports

Today was the big day – the final of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. My first Rugby World Cup, because, even though I’ve always loved the sport, I’d never been able to follow it on TV neither in Germany nor in Greece. And what a World Cup it was, dear friends, wasn’t it?

It was all so exciting from the very beginning – the newspaper pull-outs with the teams and the odds, and information about the host country Japan and the venues where the matches were going to take place. Then the first day, the opening ceremony – the Japanese were really making a wonderful cultural celebration out of their first Rugby World Cup! And what a beautiful song that would guide us through the whole tournament: “The World in Union” – a perfect motto for what was to come, because once again sports would unite the world…

Any big sporting event is always a good occasion for learning more about other countries – their location, their people, their anthems, their flags… So, since my knowledge on the Southern Hemisphere wasn’t too big, I got out the atlas and studied the whereabouts of those exotic sounding nations that were taking part: Fiji, Samoa, Tonga… I also learned more about some big countries from the other side of the world – for example, did you know that the lyrics of South Africa’s national anthem are written in no less than five different languages?


From the reports on ITV, we soon learned more about Japan as well, the host of the competition, the Land of the Rising Sun. They’re relative newcomers to rugby, but enthusiastic as they are they embraced the sport very quickly, and by now the whole nation had gone rugby crazy. And the sport has also helped them overcome some of their own problems with discrimination: their captain, Mike Leitch, who is of New Zealand-Fiji descent, had to cope with quite some racism in the beginning, but the success of the young Japanese team soon made a national hero out of him – he’s even got his own statue now in Tokyo!


As for our own fandom here at home, I’ve been very partial to Wales for a long time now – my darling husband is half Welsh, I’ve always been interested in Welsh culture and history (all those myths about King Arthur!), and I’m learning a bit of Welsh, too. Besides that, Wales is one of the great rugby nations; the whole country lives and breathes rugby. So, we’d get up early for the matches (because of the huge time difference to Japan) and, still in our pyjamas, sit in front of the telly and support our Celtic teams together with our little Celtic friends, Lep from Ireland, Nessie from Scotland and Ben from Wales!



A rugby World Cup is quite a lengthy process, as I soon realised – six whole weeks, that’s longer than a football World Cup! The group stage alone lasted for four weeks… And it went well for most of us: Wales finished first in their group, having beaten giant Australia, and Ireland came second after host Japan in pool A; Nessie’s Scotland finished third in that group, though, and had to go home…

The next casualty was Lep’s Ireland in the quarter finals; they lost 14-46 against New Zealand. Fearless little Wales, though, went on: they beat France and were now facing South Africa in the semi finals – there their luck ran out, though: they narrowly lost 16-19…

Anyway – today was the great final, the day we’d all been waiting for; who would win the Rugby World Cup 2019?? South Africa against England… Now, the English press was understandably convinced England would win; but I must admit I couldn’t help thinking that, since Wales had won the Grand Slam at the Six Nations Cup earlier in the year, and since South Africa had beaten us, why shouldn’t they beat England as well? Besides, I’d seen their formidable defence when we played them…

And I was right: South Africa scored a great victory with 32-12! And that’s where the celebrations set in – this wonderful thing that unites the world… We saw the South African team celebrating, heard all those moving stories about the players’ backgrounds, some of whom had grown up in poverty, and we heard about how this country that had been plagued by racism for so long became the ‘Rainbow Country’ – blacks and whites living together peacefully, celebrating sports together and beating all the other teams to lift the Rugby World Cup!

Rugby Winners SAfrica

The scenes from Johannesburg and other big cities were simply beautiful – and no matter which team each of us had supported throughout the competition, we all felt a bit South African this morning…



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