The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

‘Kapa o Pango’ in Lankan style


Rugby is an aggressive game that keeps raising the emotions of those playing as well as watching.  The penalty in rugby can be looked at two ways. One is acts that break the law but are in the course of the game such as a late tackle, incorrect binding etc.
The second type is those that are not part of the game and include the repeated infringements as well as foul play. Over the years fans have seen players punch, kick, head butt, eye-gouge, bite, and stamp and grab the family jewels: But these have no place in the game. The referee will award a penalty in the case of type 1 offences and escalate the penalty in the case of type 2 offences.  The sanction moves upward form a simple penalty to admonishing, yellow card to a red card.  Most offences that happen on the field stay there unless there is further action required as in the case of a player being sent off.

The incidents that are taken beyond the field or are brought to the field and to the surrounding areas are ones that is a concern. The most recent issue involves a big match commonly called a shield game between Prince of Wales and Science College played at the CR and FC grounds on July 5.

The match was halted 10 minutes before the end due to a free for all among spectators. These two schools are close to each other having their grounds at Mount Lavinia and Moratuwa. The decision to play this match at the CR was because there was a probability that crowds may go at the throat of each other due territorial bitterness. The match being played in Colombo did not prevent fighting as spectators invaded the field. Not to be outdone some of the female wrestlers were seen hurling chairs.

There are big matches “and big matches” and this goes down as belonging to the category of “and big matches.” When big matches with a history go down to the second category it is obvious that the like the crab the new big match revelers follow: sideways.  It is reasonable to conclude that the mania of must-win attitude pervades the arena of rugby.

The old boys must remember that they have left school and let the schoolboys enjoy their game. They must support the school but remember that they should be role models and have to be the good cowboy of the comic books of their time.  I spoke to some of the sources of the two schools and the sentiment was that this “big match” should not be played as a similar incident took place last year.  I hear from reliable sources of Reid Avenue that a recommendation has been made to the school to declare “no entry” to known names that invaded the field. The security at a match is the responsibility of the host and they have to take every possible action to prevent a match being stopped. In the wake of the Schools Section leading to claim damages from those who stooped the schools knock out competition the recommendation to bar those who stir mob action is interesting.  This happened in countries where people believe the game is important.

Recently I was watching a mini rugby tournament where a player practiced kung fu, on an opponent, after the final whistle. A supporter of a school jumped over the fence and pulled Bruce Lee away. The result was another parent taking on the man who jumped over the fence and pulled the fighter. This ended in a virtual free for all with a hapless man with the mike calling for restraint among the parents. He went on to say that in future they may have to ban parents.  This may be the next as the organizers have stopped parents from crowding the playing area. Mini rugby is organized by Rugby Directors of a few schools to help the kids to improve the game. However if the parents do not understand  this and  involve themselves in unacceptable behaviour the good work of the Rugby Directors might have to be handed over to Funeral  Directors.  Another headache is the parents who complain while unable to neither walk nor talk straight after a few shots taken in the car park. Recently some female parents kept giving instructions during a junior match and confused the coach as well as the players.  The icing was when they said if the coach does not give instruction I will have to. In recent times we see an imitation of the Haka; a traditional war dance adopted by the New Zealand Rugby Team and performed since 1905. Over the years they have performed the haka “Ka Mate” composed in 1810 to commemorate escape from death and means “I live,” and the team answers  Ka ora’ Ka ora’ meaning  life goes on.

In recent time All Blacks introduced the “Kapa o Pango”. It featured an extended and aggressive introduction by the captain and is highlighted by its more aggressive climax, of drawing the thumb down the throat.  This was interpreted by many as a “throat-slitting” action directed at the opposing team. The words to “Kapa o Pango” are more specific to the rugby team than “Ka Mate”, referring to the warriors in black and the silver fern.

The performance has been called “the greatest ritual in world of sport”.  The IRB tournament rules dictate teams facing the haka, or other similar pre-game cultural performances, to remain at least 10 meters on their own side of the halfway line. I saw a mini rugby team go up to the opponents and virtually ending with a finger almost up the nose of the opponent.  Taunting action not limited to the Haka involve players virtually harassing the opponents as they huddle in the centre. This is an issue that requires attention so that both teams remain in their half closer to the ten and avoid confrontation.

- Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, coach and Accredited  Referees Evaluator IRB

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