PONDERING my imminent death over a coffee, Leila tapped my hand seeking my attention. ?It?s not as bad as you think. You could always...disappear? She said with a flourish of her hands. ?Plenty of places to hide in Iran.? She finished with a gleaming grin. ?No, we could win this. In fact...we must. Even if it means the Islamic Revolution is put on hold. Even if it means...??You are brave... or foolish. More likely both but nothing will be achieved by sipping latte and waiting for the first snow falls.? She leaned over and whispered a plan...?I have another that I must try first?With that we parted.I couldn?t help but summarise my situation. Here I am in Iran. An inexperienced coach, coaching inexperienced players. Politics permeates even the air that is breathed. It?s in-grained into every aspect of life. It goes against everything I believe in with regards to sports though, I must admit that internally at least, every club has political issues. Within the team I kept an eye on the internal politics since learning that at any time the team could implode through sheer political ideologies. I couldn?t pretend I had my head around it and I was rued to try and sort it out. At least back in Australia, for 80 minutes, as a fan, we can forget about everything from politics to even home issues.This is here and now. Pre-revolutionary Iran. Although Leila?s plan was sound I was not going to leave Iran with a legacy of being a mediocre coach. I certainly wanted to make some small difference with regards to a bit of Rugby League culture. ~0~ The week leading up to the friendly with Iraq we practiced real game situations. The team had come a fair way with the basic skills and some simple set plays. We concentrated in ways of keeping possession and making quick movements down the field. The team were very keen on defence and tackling was approached with fervent enthusiasm. On the eve of the game I held a team meeting. Ali translated.?Gentlemen. I am considering forfeiting the game? Ali hesitated the translation but I urged him to continue. An uproar ensued. They pleaded with the little English they new mixed with no doubt Iranian expletives.?I?m sorry but I do not think we are ready? More uproar. Ali relays that the team thinks I was wrong and that we would be denying them an opportunity of a life time.?True... but with the current situation between some members of the team I cannot let you play Rugby League.? I allowed Ali to translate and sink in. ? You see, unless you can prove to me by tomorrow morning that we are together, we are one then I will not be able to call this a Rugby League team and that you will be denying ME the opportunity of being a coach. I want you to prove to me by tomorrow morning that Allah and politics will be forgotten for 80 minutes tomorrow and that when you look a team mate in the eye you will not be seeing A Sunni or a Shi?ite, a pro or a con revolutionary. Prove this to me and we will play. I have called a press conference for 9am tomorrow and I will be giving them an answer one way or the other?I walked out amidst a cold silence, giving me enough time to contemplate the religious connotations of Rugby League clubs back home. The Catholic Cardinal Red of Souths completed with the Irish Myrtle of its lush hills. Canterbury too we?re well connected with the Catholic Church before it?s more recent Muslim connotations and you cannot go past the iconographic Christian logo of the St. George slaying the Dragon. ~0~ Perhaps I was being a hypocrite to an extent. Perhaps Religion and politics were not to far removed back home either and for eighty minutes every weekend I was deluding myself.The point is however, is that when the CFMEU recently took up some half-time space during a Canberra club game to spruke their message, the NRL as a whole, took one small step towards an extreme taken for granted in places like Iran, South America and even Europe. No thanks, let?s leave overt politics out of Rugby League.(The game ended prematurely at 12 all when the pitch was invaded by the crowd. Courtesy of Leila)
WHEN the CFMEU reportedly spent two million dollars for the right to have a multimedia rant about Work Place Relations during the halftime break at the Canberra game last weekend, Rugby League ushered in a new era beyond ?the battlers? versus the ?silver-tails? of politicisation of The People?s Game we accept.
I was with my friends. We went to watch the game and afterwards we went to the club to have a dance.
AS Souths fans grapple with the surprise substitute of ?Glory Glory? with Russell Crowe?s version of ?The Real Thing? as the run-on song, we should very well question the merits of Rock? threatening invasion into the core of Rugby League. It?s gone way too far.
LIFE has a way of turning around suddenly and giving you a big uppercut to the head. One can quietly sit on the lounge and avoid the punches or one can embrace a desire to push the envelope, leap off ledges (metaphorically speaking) and releasing the branch that holds one from flowing with the torrential River of Life.
JOINING the flow with hundreds of other league supporters coming to a bottleneck as security guards check people for unsafe objects in their luggage amongst the vegemite sandwiches, plastic bottles of weak lemon cordial and an extra jumper or two in case it gets a little chilly after the game on the way home because the worst thing that can happen, especially after a loss, is to feel miserable and cold with the knowledge you will cop abuse from people at work, the following Monday, from colleagues who hardly ever watch the game on television let alone live, as I am about to do but I need to weave my way through the snaky path set up with an almost frozen "metal pipe" like configuration, noticing almost subliminally that no one ever intentionally touches these dividers in the middle of winter lest they remain stuck to it till summer whereas I, safely traverse the labyrinth, pull out my wallet and part with a bit less than an hour?s worth of work to watch my beloved South Sydney Rabbitohs, no doubt, cop a thrashing from invaders of a modern, contemporary, fully News Ltd funded other Rugby League team who have enjoyed more success in the last five years than Souths have in the last fifteen years of mediocre misery which is akin to the last hot dog I ate, after the last game which left me with regret for both watching the last thrashing and eating what in effect is a warm much-of-a-nothing but; I will not be thwarted as I make my way to the nearest entrance gate where I allow a scanner to read the stub of my as yet, un-creased ticket of misery yet to come, coupled with, the ever so slight expectation of a miracle win which allow me some form of retribution but hello, there, before my very eyes I spot a kid handing out freely, the Rabbitoh News which I greedily snatch up to eagerly peruse the well written, incredibly positive, spin on Club happenings and news but what I really would like to read is my own contribution about The Burrow, located towards the back amongst the profile of the latest, very attractive, Cheergirl who gets paid to wear skimpy outfits and do a routine to a completely boring top-forty tune which is all magnified inadequately on the big screen which I cannot see as yet as not only am I still making my way to Bay 38 but I have just walked past a partial split in the stadium support where wheelchair bound fans settle in with their carers tucking in cosy blankets that remind me of better things I could be doing on a god forsakenly cold, wintry, Saturday night but those thoughts disintegrate as I promenade past the first mini beer outlet, to my left, which already looks like they are having trouble making the beer flow seamlessly into eagerly awaited plastic cups, ahead, two utterly bored looking shop keepers watching the traffic go right past their stall that is filled with over priced Souths merchandise where every Souths fan knows never to buy objects from there, as the money never makes it back to the club but nonetheless, Souths fans are truly educated thanks to the aforementioned Rabbitoh News paper wherein, by the time I actually reach Bay 38, hundreds of copies will have been ripped up to make confetti to be thrown each time Souths score a try where I have been informed that we have a twelve garbage bag backlog which will probably end up at the local pet shop come Round 26 but such is the faith and hope that smothers all those Souths fans that have come to the game fully expecting a win against all odds, against facing reality and that the only attraction these days are fleeting moments of lustful pleasure at twisting ones neck trying to catch the eye of a gorgeous young woman in very tight jeans and wearing the opposition colours much to my compounding dismay but perhaps, I can fantasise approaching after the game, for a consoling hug giving me an equally fleeting opportunity to garner what little sympathy I deserve as I approach the first steps of Bay 38 and pan the scene of the entire stadium before me wishing I had bought a beer first as I now must trudge back to the bar.
HATE is a tremendously powerful emotional feeling. It?s high up there in the power stakes and sits along nicely beside Love. Hate cannot exist where there is no Love.
I heard George Negus once say, ? Making love is like cooking Paella? you have to stir the dish gently to not break the rice?. For me it?s more like cooking Scrambled Eggs; but I digress.