Are you from a ‘sporting nation’? Do you and or your countrymen go nuts seasonally for certain sports? Is every four years when the Olympics comes around a medal tallying affair? Do you have national teams that regularly win ‘World Cups’ in your acknowledged strongest sports? Are there grown men (and women) crying in the streets if and when your teams are knocked out?
If you answered yes and your chosen national sports of interest include cricket, rugby, netball and hockey – and you are from the Southern Hemisphere there is a good chance you are Australian, South African or a Kiwi (from New Zealand).
If you are from one of these countries and happen to be in the ‘sports mad’ group (strangely not everyone is) it is likely you were bought up to barrack for a) your home country and b) whoever is playing the other two.
As I am Australian and programmed from an early age, after all I did live there for the first thirty two years of my life – that means I support Australia and anyone playing South Africa or New Zealand (and England, am thinking its our historical link). In my sojourn here in South Africa I haven’t found it much different.
A small difference is that in Australia people tend to choose a sport or two as their area of ‘special interest’ rather than follow every one equally. There are four codes of ‘ball’ sports in Aus with followings so not everyone is the rugby nut that I have become, daughter of a rugby coach it was a bit tricky not to catch the bug at some stage. Others follow Soccer, rugby league (never to be called rugby or confused with it) and that sport we ourselves invented Australian Rules (not sure what the Irish have to say on that one).
Thats where the problem of being an Aussie in South Africa has come in over the last few weeks. All South Africans follow rugby, passionately. If I had $1 for every time I have heard on the radio or read in print media in the just over two years I have been here ‘Reigning World Champions – the Springboks’ (the name of their cherished national rugby team) I would honestly be a gazillionaire. Every time I heard it – I would roll my eyes and think I can’t wait for the next bloody world cup so they can’t say that anymore, well programmed Aussie that I am.
Now it is here, the next world cup and as of today Australia and South Africa are no longer participants in the greatest rugby show on earth – South Africa knocked out by Australia last week and today New Zealand put our hopes and dreams to bed for another four years. The three great Southern hemisphere rivals all ended up on the same side of the draw and knocked each other out before the final.
It should be that simple – you would think, but it’s not. Last week the Springboks were beaten by Australia in a very close game (points wise) – one that my husband and I watched bunkered down in our own living room, declining invitations to watch with the locals, too much at stake too nervous of the outcome.
At the conclusion of that game, which generated much excitement and screaming in our house – you couldn’t see a twitter stream or South African facebook comment that didn’t accuse the Referee (known as ‘the ref’) of cheating, apparently in conjunction with one particular Aussie player. It was brutal and relentless, someone texted my husband and suggested he travel to work the next day with a security detail – of course it was a joke, kind of.
This week has honestly been hell for South Africans and for lone Aussies like us living here. I thought I might enjoy it – but I haven’t really. From Twitter and Facebook to everyman, every radio station, every newspaper, every South African beside themselves about the referee and the ‘cheating Aussies’.
A man in a furniture shop this week heard my accent and asked me – didn’t I think the ref should be banned and we should re-play the game? I said no, not really – I was happy with the result – a risky answer given I didn’t know if he was carrying a concealed weapon. We parted friends but it was touch and go there for a while. I use this as an illustration to show I am not above a bit of banter myself and ribbing the opposition. I am not always entirely blameless in the exchanges.
I am now resigned to another week of ‘you deserved that cheating Aussies’, ‘we could have beaten the Kiwis if we had played them’ & ‘that’s how to ref a game Bryce’ – much along the same lines of twitter and facebook today. Luckily I have a mid-week escape plan in the form of a trip to Aus for my brother’s birthday. It can be exhausting living in a country when you and your countrymen seem like public enemy number one. As my American expat friends point out – they enjoy living here because South Africans in general like them (Americans) more than they like us (Aussies) , a global anomaly in most people’s books.
By the time I return things hopefully will have calmed down and we can all go back to our ‘friendly rivalry’. After all – it’s only a game.