My heart bleeds for Team Canada. Literally.

September 22, 2011

There are three words you don’t want to hear while en route to a rugby match: “Is that rain?”

Uh, yes, in fact it was. Within minutes of leaving our house – and our raincoats – to head to Napier’s McLean’s Park for a Rugby World Cup clash between Canada and France, the heavens opened, meaning Viking Woman and I were pretty much soaked before we’d even entered the grounds. This despite the fact we were wearing our official Vancouver 2010 Winter Games hoodies.

That’s OK, we thought, because at least we have seats in the grandstand, as opposed to General Admission tickets where you stand out in the open at one end of the field. At least we’ll be able to watch the game from a dry vantage point.

I don’t know which is more disturbing: being told our seats were, in reality, on the “drip line” (read: the topmost row NOT sheltered by the grandstand’s roof); observing French rugby fans wearing chickens on their heads; or glancing up from the urinal to see a man being zipped into a white body suit.

I’m going to go for c), because no man should ever wear something that tight.

As for the headgear, it turns out the rooster is France’s national symbol. Maybe it’ s just the way my brain works, but I’m thinking how easy it is to connect the dots between rooster hat, cock head and dickhead. OK, that might have just been my personal bias against French, seeing how it was the only subject I failed in high school. And, yes, I am still bitter.

(It was reported later than one French fanatic was escorted from the park after the local gendarmes caught him, red-handed, relieving himself in public. Which begs the question, is that a cockerel in your pants or are you just glad to see me?)

Along with rooster heads, there were plenty of berets in the crowd, along with tri-coloured fright wigs. Not to be outdone, the Canadians sported cowboy hats, RCMP Stetsons and plastic goalie masks. There might have been a moosehead or two but, alas, not a single beaver.

One enterprising young man donned a complete set of hockey gear, minus the skates. His costume included helmet, a Team Canada jersey, shoulder pads, pants and shin guards. Considering that his luggage allowance would have been limited to one suitcase weighing no more than 23 kgs (50 pounds), he must have sacrificed a lot of clean underwear to show rugby-mad Kiwis what a real sport looks like.

Due to the unexpected deluge, a lot of creative costumes were hidden by garbage bags and plastic ponchos (the sales of which, at $5 a pop, probably outstripped that of beer).

Painted faces soon resembled The Joker more than flags. One supporter sported a sign saying “I (heart) Canada” only to have the illustration very quickly became a bleeding heart.

As for the game itself, let’s just say France was ranked fifth of the 20 participating teams and Canada 15th. The boys in red put up a decent struggle but, as many of Canada’s hockey teams have learned the hard way when playing on an international stage, penalties will kill you.

The final score : France 46 Canada 19.

As for the rain, it stopped sometime during the second half. Soaked and freezing, we hardly noticed.

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