Tuesday, 13 September 2011

World Cup supporters all in the same boat...

The following is an article written to coincide with the Rugby World Cup happening in New Zealand. This story is reproduced here courtesy of the Mercy Ships Southern Africa office. Photos by Liz Cantu of the Africa Mercy Communications team.

Freetown, Sierra Leone. September 9th, 2011. It was a rowdy crowd of international crew that gathered to watch the Rugby World Cup kick-off. The volunteer crew members onboard the hospital ship Africa Mercy live and work closely together, but the gloves are off in good-natured but intense rivalry as soon as the rugby starts.

South Africans join fellow crew members from several other World Cup nations onboard the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship, cheering for their teams - all thousands of miles from home, in West Africa.

A key element adding to the morale of the 450-strong volunteer crew, who spend ten months a year providing medical charity work in developing nations, is the ability to receive international television programming in developing nations’ ports. Courtesy of a satellite communication dish and decoder donated by a South African in 2006, the South Africans amongst the Mercy Ships crew are scouring the fixtures and zealously following the World Cup games.

Springboks’ supporter Murray Crawford from Cape Town is the Africa Mercy Assistant Purser. A passionate fan, Crawford comments, “For me, what’s so special about watching a rugby game on the Africa Mercy is that you really see the patriotism of the crew come out in a big way. We’ll don our rugby jerseys, get our national flags, paint our faces (if it’s a World Cup), sing our national anthems, and meet in the Midships Lounge to watch together. We may be from different countries, but we are all united in our appreciation of the skills and talents with which God has blessed the players. Of course, sometimes the results don’t go South Africa’s way, and this may include some jokes being sent my way (from the opposition supporters – there are a number of All Black and Wallaby supporters onboard), but it is all done in a spirit of friendship. We are, after all, united in our common purpose to serve God here. But despite this, I’m still hoping that South Africa wins the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand!”

Mr Crawford’s supervisor is a Wallabies devotee. Australian Tim Benson says, “I have never experienced what it is like to watch sport here on the ship anywhere else in the world. No matter what the sport, or the country playing, there pretty much always seems to be avid supporters wanting to cheer on their team. Some of my good friends and colleagues on the ship are South African and New Zealanders, but as soon as the rugby is on, it’s every man/woman for his/her country and everyone else is your 'enemy'. Through-out the game there is cheering and jeering, laughing and crying, but at the end of the day we are all friends again.”

Miriam Tillman from Christchurch, New Zealand, is the Africa Mercy Pharmacist. She particularly enjoys watching the rugby with the opposition supporters. “It is always great fun hassling the South Africans or Australians, especially when there are a few Kiwis around to back me up. Of course they manage to give back in kind. But in the end it is the score that really matters.”

As the TV channel is shared by the whole ship’s community, viewing the All Blacks games can be challenging. Ms. Tillman confesses, “I am planning on ‘stealing’ all my friends TV hours (we only get 4 hours a week each) to book out the channel for the whole World Cup. There will be many an early morning sitting in mid ships with my All Blacks shirt on.”

Mr. Crawford sums up the heart of the matter, “Being able to watch the games while serving in Sierra Leone (or any other West African nation) is such a blessing for the crew. It allows us to connect with our friends back home who are also watching the same game, at the same time. We can feel part of the millions of fans around the world who are linked by their common love for the sport of rugby.” The Springboks are the current Rugby World Champions.

1 comment:

Walter Tully said...

It’s really nice to see friends and strangers come together in one roof for their burning passion and love for one sport. It’s a rare time when we let go of our reservations for each other and turn it into one loud battle cry to push our teams and fellow countrymen to victory and, of course, for the bragging rights of being crowned as world champions.

Walter Tully