I knew nothing about rugby before coming to Samoa. Now I know a little bit. I know enough to know I really enjoy watching it. Watching Manu Samoa with thousands in the stadium on a sunny afternoon was excellent. There are a number of distinct differences between attending a Manu Samoa game vs. attending a pro NFL game in the U.S.
Getting in, for example. We paid $1.50 USD to take a taxi to the stadium. He dropped us off at the entrance and we walked 20 yards to the entrance gate. We waited less than five minutes before going in.
The price is much better. We had general admission tickets. $2.50 USD. Nice, eh? Ok, we sat on the grass behind the goal post but it was comfortable and we had a great view. The priciest ticket, for VIP seating in the shade were $25 USD.
There's no beer. I'd hoped for a cold Vailima, but understand why no liquor is sold in the stadium. That didn't stop some folks from bringing their own vodka in. One group of guys sitting near us would have been less conspicuous if they hadn't also brought real glass glasses to use to chug the booze.
Lots of arrests. I believe they were drink related. I saw 5 guys being arrested in separate incidents (except two who were arrested for fighting).
Fan participation. Samoans love it when someone plays the clown. A few guys would randomly stand up and start shouting stupid stuff or dancing or whatever and the crowd would hoot and holler. It's a big stadium so each section had their own impromptu clowns. During half time (or whatever it's called in rugby) Digicell, a cell phone company who is a major sponsor, had one of those contests like we have in the States. You know the kind - kick a field goal, make a basket, whatever. Usually with a million dollar prize. These prizes were two tickets to the next Manu game and a t-shirt. Oooooh. They selected people by their phone numbers. But the clowns started heading to the competition. Totally unplanned and the police helped some of the guys find their seats again. One clown totally missed the goal so threw his shoe over the goal and then ran to pick it up, kissing it as if it was the winning ball. The clown from our section was so popular, the Digicell guys actually let him try and gave him a t-shirt.
Refreshments. I love that entrepreneurs wandered through the packed crowd, selling sodas (sorta cold, in cans) and popcorn (surprisingly good and cheap). What I didn't realize until we were leaving was that behind the stadium was food vendor row, with barbequed chicken, keke pua'a and all the typical Samoan fast foods available. Man, I could have been eating bar-b-que chicken while watching hot guys try to kill each other.
Danger. It was a very jovial crowd. Nobody searching bags. No metal detectors. But I'm a belt and suspenders kinda gal. Which is why I had a Samoan flag temporarily tattooed on my face and a Samoan flag in my hand. I wanted the big Samoan crowd to know where my loyalty lies. But then a palagi couple showed up and sat right behind my friends and I. Geez. What are we, palagi magnets? My worst fears were realized when the Scottish team took the field and started warming up. The palagi couple started yelling greetings to one of their friends on the team. That did not go over well with the Samoan fans. And, of course, they assumed all the palagi's were together. I waved my flag and the palagi couple were clever enough to start yelling "We love Samoa! We love Manu Samoa! Go, Manu!" Good move.
Excitement. We were right behind the goal. Unlike US football, the game doesn't stop when a player gets hit and falls. No downs, here. So the teams were on what would be the 1 yard line for a good fifteen minutes. Scotland was trying to score. Manu were doing their best on defense. It was awesome. Sadly, they finally scored the winning goal (or, whatever it's called).
All in all, it was a great time. People were friendly and there to have fun. Lots of laughing, lots of yelling, lots of food and entertainment. Plus, I finally got to see Manu Samoa do the haka, in person. If anyone reading this is trying to figure out the most effective way to seduce me, doing a haka would work.
After the game, the family of the Peace Corps friends I was with gave me a ride to the pizza place. Then I caught a cab back to the hotel for a hot shower, followed by pizza and beer. Not a girly kind of day but a great day.
Here are some photos of the day:
|It was hot. This was over an hour before the game started. By kickoff, it was SRO. Bummer that my face tattoo is covered by the lavalava.|
|Where the rich people sit - in the shade. It, too, was packed. Notice the guys in the foreground also keeping away sunburn with a lavalava.|
|Manu number 13 was carried off on a stretcher after hurting his knee.|
|Before the stretcher arrived, he was helped off the field. Play continued while he was carried off. No fancy golf carts in Samoa for multimillionaire wimps.|