Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Rugby and soccer

I spent most of the last couple of months in Europe watching a mix of football and rugby. I must say I find it impossible to understand people who can’t get enjoyment from both games. The idea of being either a rugby fan or a football fan is so limiting. My suggestion? Put a bit of and/and into your life and start enjoying both! Besides, I increasingly find crossovers between the two sports. A classic example is the news that Sunderland manager, and ex Manchester United hero, Roy Keane, is coming to New Zealand as part of his coaching badge assignment to study with the All Blacks. This was arranged by one of our unsung coaching heroes, Ricki Herbert, a guy I came to know when I was on the Board of New Zealand Soccer a couple of years back. Ricki is an inspirational leader and an innovative thinker.

I’m glad the All Blacks have accepted Keane because there is no doubt that he has an inspirational belief and commitment rarely seen in modern day football. If he had been born in New Zealand, he would have been central to the game in the mould of Tana Umaga or Frank Bunce. He said, “I don’t know if I’ll be allowed into any team talks. I’ll keep my head down and just watch them; try to plug into what they are all about”. The idea of Keane with his head down keeping quiet is a novel one to say the least. I hope it’s an inspirational and beneficial partnership for both sides.

While all this has been going on, Nigel Melville and his team at USA Rugby have been making terrific progress. We’ve signed Scott Johnson as our National Coach, fresh from his successes in Wales and with the Wallabies. Scotty is a larger than life personality who will go down well with players and spectators in the US. He’s really bought into the adventure and challenge of inspiring all Americans to fall in love with rugby, and to take the Eagles onto the world stage. We’ve given him a four year contract so that he can use the time to maximum advantage and prepare for a Qtr Final run in New Zealand in 2011. We’ve got the Churchill Cup against England A, Argentina A, Ireland A, Canada in June, followed by two tough games against Clermont Auvergne and Munster. Then we tour Japan to meet Mr. Kirwan’s Cherry Blossoms in November. It’s going to be quite a year.


Pi said...

I agree 100% KR, I grew up in an English school in JHB South Africa where one could only play soccer. Rugby was only an option in High School. My Dad is from Rugby stock and his story telling had me chomping at the bit to play rugby. We moved to Cape Town when I was 10 and from then on it was rugby fever all winter.I feel very fortunate to have enjoyed both sports as a youngster. Very interesting what you report on Roy Keane. A buddy of yours - Bob, who reached as high as possible in Springbok rugby once named Sir Alex Ferguson as one man he would most enjoy joining for dinner.

Scrum Time for Rugby Tragics said...

I'm a committed Rugby fan, but I did play Soccer part time at College. It wasn't my Saturday sport, but we played it once or twice a month, and I loved it as a player. I have to say that Rugby is enjoyable whether you are a player, spectator, referee, or official, but, as a spectator, I do struggle with a game that can go for 90 minutes with results like 0-0 or 1 0.

I have a theory that they should widen the goal area and raise the cross bar, and make it really interesting for the goalie. The scorelines would be interesting.

I do think that soccer is a great sport for kids to play, My five year old has started this year and I won't let him play Rugby until he is about 10. I think that for kids running around and playing the round ball game is a great way of developing their hand-eye co-ordination and there is plenty of time later on when he gets to prep or high school to learn his Rugby, if that is his choice.

There certainly is a place for both codes and there is no real conflict between them.

Kevin Roberts said...

Scrum Time, regardless of how interesting it might be, you’ll have a mob on your hands if you try to change those rules!