Saturday, 15 November 2008

Shouting Out from The Touchline

Tomorrow I'm going to watch a rugby match. The giants of Redruth are taking on the leviathans of Leeds, so at least they'll all be the same size. Just bigger than the people in the crowd. Rugby is a wonderful game - thirty men determined to win at all costs. Why not give them a ball each, you might ask, this would save them fighting over just the one. You obviously don't know very much about rugby!

I love it. My dad introduced my to the game, he supported Penzance so of course I had to choose a different side, and lucky old Redruth got my vote. At the time I wasn't quite sure where Redruth was (I was seven) but I followed them as best I could through the local paper. I can't remember the two sides ever meeting; Redruth were ineffably superior and played in a much higher league, as I recall.

Years passed, but I always kept an eye on Redruth, even when I lived far away from Cornwall. And now I'm back. The ground is as I remembered it (though smaller) and the same faces - or types of face - populate the crowd. Big men - and women - with veins and funny teeth, shouting instructions to the players, following every move, sometimes mildly at odds with the referee. Huge coats, woolly hats, water-proof leggings, big boots, to ward off cold and rain. Cups of soup, pasties, and thousands of empty plastic pint glasses crunching underfoot.

But who would want to stand
on a bank of mud in all weathers, urging mad, violent people to get hold of a bit of pumped-up plastic and run about with it? Well, I would. The thing is with rugby, not only is the game actually absorbing, graceful and satisfying, but going to a match is about more than just what happens on the pitch.

You can stand intermixed with supporters of the opposing team, and not get your head kicked off. Just a bit of friendly banter, and if your lot score, they will clap. Imagine that happening at a 'kiss-ball' match. Rugby supporters are well-behaved; they take a pride in their conduct, perhaps having in mind the contrapuntal antics of those who favour the other-shaped ball.

You can buy a nice hat with Redruth RFC embroidered on it. You can go in the club house and admire the trophies, caps, photos and other memorabilia of past glories. Fancy a sausage roll? They really are OK. You can have a beer before the game, or during it, or afterwards, or all three. It's not dear to get in and the atmosphere is terrific, with the crowd roaring and the Bassett monument lowering over Hellfire Corner.

I have even kicked a penalty there. Exploring the town one weekday, I fetched up at the club's main gate and as it was open I went in. I was walking round the empty ground enjoying happy memories when I found a ball under the stand. I took it onto the pitch, lined it up for a penalty kick and biff - between the posts it went! Sadly though, my achievement was witnessed only by an itinerant dog.

So off we'll go tomorrow, my and my mate Dennis. It's really great fun, particularly so as Redruth are having an exceptional run at the mo. So put your team jersey on, take some money for 'refreshments', and get there nice and early for a good view. You'll love it!

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