Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Rugby World Cup: Excitement and Fear

❍Max Brito: I wonder how he is doing

I AM seriously looking forward to the Rugby World Cup.
I look forward with, not a little, hope.
Ireland, for its size and population, manages to produce outstanding performances in many sports. Golf, for example. Or soccer where we managed to rise to eighth in the world in 1990. We’re pretty good at athetics. We have a good history in cycling. We almost rule the world of horse racing. We’re not bad at hockey. We’re top ten in cricket. We, er, box above our weight in boxing.
And, of course, there is rugby.
We’re goling into this world cup with a good chance. If we perform at our best, we can do very, very well. If we perform at our best and other teams, such as New Zealand and France, don’t perform at their best, we could actually win it.
But while I’m looking forward to the competition with a huge sense of expectation I also look forward with trepidation.

Because, like previous world cups, the 2007 tournament has thrown up some blindingly obvious and potentially dangerous mismatches.
Twelve years ago, Scotland beat the Ivory Coast 89-0. New Zealand beat Japan 145-17.
In 1999, New Zealand beat Italy 101-3
England beat Tonga 101-10.
In the last tournament, four years ago, Australia beat Namibia 142-0.
Apart altogether from the fact that routs such as these do nothing to encourage rugby in what are laughinly called ‘emerging nations,’ these are mismatches on the scale of putting a ballet dancer in the ring with a heavyweight boxer.
Rugby has, if anything, become more physical in the professional era.
In 1995, Ivory Coast winger Max Brito, was left tetraplegic as the result of a tackle. It seemed innocuous at the time. And there was certainly no intent.
But Max was playing for a country that rarely plays internationals and qualifies for world cups - not this one - not because they’re good, but because other teams are worse.
Maz received £1560,000 from the International Rugby Board’s insurance scheme at the time.
But soon, the memory of his injuries seemed to fade. A couple of years later, he was in deep depression, living with his parents and still, incredibly, watching rugby.
Max is the father of two children.
So far has his plight faded from the memory, that web searches turn up little about him now.
Wikipedia offers only a stub.
One Portuguese blog contains a short and innacurate piece about him.
ASouth African blog refers to the tragic game in which Max was crippled and then adds this: “The rest of the match was a non-event in the bigger scheme of things. Ivory Coast battled bravely while Tonga smashed and bashed their way to a 29-11 victory.”
Sad, that the result of the game is considered by someone to be “the bigger scheme of things.”
This world cup is throwing up more mismatches.
There is New Zealand and Portugal, France and Namibia, Ireland and Georgia, South Africa and Tonga, Australia and Japan.
The minnows will, likely as not, be eaten up. Morale will be, perhaps fatally, wounded, Young kids in those countries will turn their backs on rugby.
Hopefully, there will not be another Max Brito.
Hopefully, Max is alive and coping. I don’t know.
I wonder if the rugby authorities do.


Anonymous said...

Let's not forget we produce the World's greatest Hurlers and Gaelic Footballers!

And in the above, we produce the World's greatest sporting games, or at least the single best field sport ever --- Hurling!!

Anonymous said...

Max Brito is still alive - and bedridden. He can move his head, chest, and an arm. His wife has left him. His two sons only talk to him when they want money - of which he has little. He lives with his parents and would like to die. The sport has not served him well. See his wikipedia page for details.

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