Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hong Kong Sevens

If rugby is big in Hong Kong, then the annual Hong Kong Sevens world series tournament is even bigger. For years now, we have seen our friends disappear over the sevens weekend, replaced by rowdy crazily dressed fans. This year, we were able to spend three days in Hong Kong’s Stadium too, courtesy of tickets obtained through Adam’s participation in a mini-rugby league here. Some of us loved the rugby, some of us loved watching the diehard fans, some of us loved the face painting but all of us found something to love this past weekend.

The Hong Kong Sevens atmosphere is like a carnival, with throngs of spectators, lots of drunken diversions, music and costumes. And that is not even touching on the rugby itself! When Tori and I arrived late to the stadium (she had a morning swim meet out in the new Territories), we could not hear Phil on the cell phone and had to find him by following text directions. As we walked past men dressed as women, a crowd of about ten guys dressed as Egyptian pharaohs and a big group of people dressed in hot pink latex, Tori’s eyes widened.

The stadium was a teeming mass of people but we also ran into two groups of people we knew who had moved away from Hong Kong last year and were just in town for the rugby. We saw friends singing in musical sideshows and knew one of the high school kids who streaked across the rugby field chased by security. With all the excitement plus short games and a wide screen television for re-plays, even our non-rugby obsessed girls were able to stay put and interested for more than half the day.

To start the world series, the mini-rugby league teams were invited to play in exhibition games. Over 3,000 kids play rugby here, with the mini-league growing every year. Adam left school early and got to the stadium, where he lined up with his team and marched onto the field. He played a ten minute game on the north pitch. His team won 2-1. Adam was nervous before the game, stretching and jumping up and down. We were nervous after the game, trying to locate him through the crowds after he exited the playing field. Nonetheless, this is Hong Kong where life does many times seem achingly nostalgic of a more innocent time. The parents were all told to write our cell phone numbers on our kid’s arms in case they got separated from the group. People here are worried that the kids might be scared if lost but not that anything worse would happen to them. And we found Adam where he was suppose to be, standing right by his coach and ready to start eating stadium food and refueling after his grueling ten minute match.

Adam loved the rugby this weekend. We watched as the teams warmed up on the sidelines and ran out on to the field at the start of play. Adam enjoyed looking at all the big players and confided to me that he hoped to be as big as a Fiji team player when he grew up. Adam mostly routed for teams that he knew but loved them all. We saw the US team win once, but they lost a couple times after that. Adam and many other little boys dressed in their rugby uniforms, placed themselves right by the tunnel that the players entered and exited from. Adam hung over the side with his rugby jersey and pen in hand. He collected over 30 signatures from whoever he could get to stop. One time, he had an American player holding his jersey but the American ended up not signing it, getting pulled away by his coach. Nonetheless, the entire Fiji team came by and signed his jersey. And Adam told me in hushed tones that one of the Fiji players even had blood on his forehead. And Adam, with a few elbowing rugby skills of his own, got that American player’s signature the very next day.


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