Not just rugby
Jis, I miss home when the rugby’s on. It’s just not the same here in London. Today is Friday and I know the people back in SA will be rocking up to school and work in their bokke jerseys, and if they can’t afford one they’ll rummage for green or yellow, or a flag or something (anything!), to represent.
Jis, I miss home when the rugby’s on. It’s just not the same here in London. Today is Friday and I know the people back in SA will be rocking up to school and work in their bokke jerseys, and if they can’t afford one they’ll rummage for green or yellow, or a flag or something (anything!), to represent. I was chatting to my Afrikaans friend the other day – about life and rugby, as South Africans do during the World Cup (and after and before the World Cup… okay – all the time) – and she said to me, “There’s no gees in this place.” I nodded in eager agreement, not wanting to look stupid because: what the heck is “gees”? After our chat I made a desperate dash for Google and found out that gees means “spirit”. And I was like, Ja! That’s it exactly. Now I really was nodding. Where IS the gees in this place. Sheesh. You wouldn’t even know that there is a World Cup going on, never mind the fact that England is playing in a huge semi-final tomorrow.
A few weeks ago, we went to Bordeaux to find the gees. Having the world cup in France has been a gift to expats. We tried for Ireland tickets but the Irish bought them all, so Romania v SA it was. Best time ever! Gees all over the place, and not just South Africans – French (total legends), Chileans, a couple of Romanians – rugby fans. The eldest of our five children came with us to watch the game. She’s thirteen. The age I was when my love affair with Rugby began – 1995. And boy are the Springboks her team although she has a major crush on the Barretts (all three!) like me and James, Hennie and Joost in ’95.
I spoke to just about every South African that crossed our path in Bordeaux, to the point that my daughter said, “Please mom? Do you literally have to speak to everyone?” Yes, in fact – I did. Everyone. On the trams, on the trains, walking to the stadium, in the stadium. About rugby, coaching, Rassie maybe going to Ireland (no way Rassie). Home away from home. One of my best moments was when the guy sitting next to me in the game shouted at Willie le Roux, “You chop!” when he knocked the ball on. I was finished. I told him that we banter with our children at home, “Don’t be a chop” and that I hadn’t heard anyone else say it for seventeen years.
From “chop” to half naked guys with Faf undies on display to Zulu headgear and my entire face in a saffa flag, Mandoza’s “Nkalakatha” hailing down from the speaker gods post-match and a picture with Siya (for reals!); there was gees for Africa. Then back to London. Nothing. Bar actual, real-life South Africans the closest I get is my Zambian friend who has abandoned the Springboks for England because her son plays rugby in this country; she is the only non-South African I know who cannot sit down during a game and stands two centimetres from the screen, shouting for a try. She knows how to support her team the African way – ALL in. Here, there’s no flags, singing, dancing, shouting, parties in the street, car hooters. Here, there’s no Stronger Together.
It’s okay though, we’ll bring the gees. Like last week when our family was asked to lead prayers in church. We arrived in Springbok kit – hats, shirts and attitude (except my 5-year-old who was wearing a red Christmas dress #priorities). We got that microphone and we prayed, for friends, family, community, country (England out loud, South Africa in my heart) and world peace, and my eldest daughter thanked God for the rugby players who give Him all the glory on field (and off). I told her she couldn’t pray that the Springboks win… but secretly, we can’t help ourselves. It’s the gees.
Come on bokke!