BRINGING MY TRADITIONS TO ESTONIA: RUGBY – KEVIN (FRANCE)
“Rugby has been built my nature since my early childhood, by chance I brought it to Estonia with the help of a great person, Ash, our local coach”
I have played rugby since my youngest age. All started when I was about 6 or 7 years old and went to a local library to figure out more about potential sports I would choose as a hobby. Among my list of interests, I found hockey, boxing or rugby. Yes, I have always been attracted to physical sports. I remember the day when I opened a book about rugby and learned about its history, tradition, and victories. At that time, two of my friends already played rugby in a local team (OSGL: Olympique St Genis Laval – a little town near Lyon). They invited me to play on a Wednesday with the team at the local stadium. The first time I stepped there I did not wear the colors of the team, and yet I was accepted as a brother in the team. In fact, most of the players back then touched a rugby ball while they made their first steps. Obviously as part of the team on my very first day – I did not leave and kept on playing for that club for the next 10 years. Our team played around France together for over ten years and won a number of championships. I remember every weekend the team would rent a bus to go somewhere and play against other teams; most of the time we won, of course! Our team was rather good compared to others. My family would always follow and support me! The team was itself a giant family, with parents always taking us places to play and learn from others. Contests were about fun, sport and food! On the way back, we would sing songs, and show our asses on the windows of the bus being real little rebels! Getting home, tired like never! At the end of the games, the hosting club would cook BBQs or sandwiches to feed hundreds of tired kids – memorable!
Every year, a big contest happens in South or France « Cannes » – there the club would rent a 4 stars hotel, in which all the kid would stay for 3 days, and play rugby 2 days on the raw. International teams would compete. But most of it was about the fun! Nights in the hotel were about playing games, fighting each other in the pool and so on! I remember one day we all threw our soaps in the giant pool of the hotel, hoping to make a foam bath! did not work tho. The idea is there! Rugby was a team of fun, party, and jackassery! We won this championship twice on a raw! The last time we played in Cannes, we ended up in Final, against another French team and lost because of stupid mistake! Probably one of the first time I cried for the team. We were disappointed in us, annoyed of letting such stupid mistake happen. Training went on, we got older, hormones worked out, and turned from kids to little men. Games became more physically difficult and violent, but the team always remained strongly bounded. I remember breaking noses and arms in the fire of action, but always feeling sorry and respectful for the wounds. Once, for a final our team was playing, I was on the wing and saw a pile of human trying to reach the ball on the floor. My friend managed to put his hand on the ball, suddenly an opponent jumped on his arm, and broke both bones. The guy stood up and jumped on the place, his arm was literally a loose string. Pretty scary, right? Both teams finished the game and made a raw to the ambulance while clapping respect. – Even if he could not use his arm, the policy was that wounded would still come to training, to help, run and support the team. I once broke my hand, and later my arm – still was forced to be on the field with the colleagues, bringing water, and running with them.
Respect for each other and for the opponent grew – I then realized to what extent rugby is a noble sport (In fact, in France the sport is famous for its nobility). Many tend to think that rugby is a sport of animals, but it is the most human sport I have encountered, even if sometimes the team ended up fighting with the opponent, rugby taught us the social and human rules of respect and hierarchy. From what I know, rugby reminded me of the military compulsory service, in which coach treated us like their sons but at the same time made us bleed, sweat and cry to turn our weak little structure into strong and cleverer people. We learned how to count on each other and fight for each other. In fact, a number of studies showed the important aspects of the psychology of rugby – which is unique in the dimension of sports.
As years went over, I have focused more on skateboard and music, but always been close to rugby. I stopped playing for a couple of years in high school but started to miss it once graduating. In fact, the team was kind of split, as all became either good enough to enter famous clubs and others focused on different battlefields.
My life took me to Estonia in which rugby is basically an unknown and probably well-misunderstood sport. One day while walking to the library, I saw a couple of guys on a football field passing a rugby ball to each other. I did not dare to say anything. For a week, I thought about it and started dreaming about my rugby years at night. A week later, I went to the field and found them in the same place. I asked if I could join the game and bring what I knew about the sport. Turned out, that the coach, Ash, an Indian expat from Tallinn, playing for the Estonian national team was wounded and could not play in Tallinn so he trained in Tartu aside of school. He brought a couple of military guys (from the Estonian army) to the field and taught them the basics. The team didn’t have enough players; therefore, I brought a couple of my French expats to the field and started to build an actual team. Most French people, even if never played, understand the values and consequently are able to pass them on. They did. More and more military guys came to training. As mentioned earlier, military and rugby have a rather similar mindset in term of social cohesion – it was easy to build up a team mindset. After a couple of weeks of training, our coach registered us to the National league. The team rented a mini bus from the army and drove all together to Narva. All my rugby memories started to turn real again! Fun, drinks, and sport! With no expectations, we won most of the teams at the tournament and ended up in a final against the national team of Estonia. The game was rough as my physical condition was worse than it used to be! But gosh, we tried (= scored in rugby slank) a couple of times, and won the second place of the Estonian National Rugby league! A memory that I will never forget.
The example of building a team from scratch and playing to a certain level illustrates the world of Estonia. The country is young; everything is possible and accessible! Moreover, bringing such values was an amazing experience for me.
The team is still playing but is less active due to the lack of players. Therefore, I strongly recommend the readers to come and learn from this. It builds a man (or a woman!). It really teaches life, like no other sports and does not imply violence as you conceptualize it.