Rugby afternoons

It’s raining outside. More: it’s stormy. Rather than a May afternoon, it looks like we are back in January or February…I’ve just come back from my son Pedro’s rugby match where, alongside with other dedicated rugby mums and dads I stood firm during 80 minutes trying to protect ourselves from the rain, the cold and the wind, while we watched our sons play.

Pedro has been playing for ten years, so all the parents know one another quite well. As we stood under our umbrellas, we commented the game and, by the way, that our boys will all be eighteen this year;  my God, it seems only yesterday that they were so small…

The rugby field was soaked and very slippery. As for the boys, soon the white in their gear had become brown, and they must have been wet to the bones. But they don’t mind, actually I know they love playing in the rain. When they come home, all muddy and wet, I make them undress at the door (well not entirely, but almost) and they run to the shower so that they may get warmer…

It was a great game, against a team from the centre-north of Portugal. His team scored at the beginning and they continued to do so. They played very well in the first part and won an important advantage. After the break they slowed down a bit and the other team played hard, but they defended well, not letting the others score, and finally they scored again.

Pedro played very well. He cuts a very elegant figure in the field, tall and slim yet strong. He plays in a back position (full back) so he’s mostly outside the main confusion, such as the “melée” (here I must confess that, although I’ve been watching rugby matches for 14 years I’m very ignorant about the rules!) but he tackled a few times, stopping his opponents from scoring and allowing for an advantage for his team. The fathers watching the match – who know the rules – cheered him and I was the proudest of mums, naturally. In the end, as the boys passed behind the terrace where we were watching the game, we cheered them and I, always so controlled, shouted “great game”! Of course he didn’t look straight at me – it’s not “manly” to look at a mother, however cheering and supportive she is – but I could see him smile and I knew it was partly because of my being so noisy…

As I was running home, proud and happy but cold, I remembered Afonso’s game of two weeks ago, on a sunny, warm, pleasant spring day. It’s tough seeing him play as he is in the senior team. They are big – so big – and when they bump against each other it’s like a clash of titans! Unlike his brother, he plays in a forward position (lock) and he’s always in the middle of everything. He is also a very different player, tall as his brother but bulkier and very strong. The game of two weeks ago was a very hard game; while today’s was almost like a “walk in the park” as it ended 31 – 0, the other one was tough, as when one team was winning the other scored and vice – versa. Afonso only came in at the end of the game, when his team was losing and, as his brother said: “He came in and changed the game!”, and it was like that as he, even if not scoring, allowed one of his fellow players to do so and was much cheered for that. This score allowed for a draw and they had to have extra time as they were competing for the semi-finals of the championship. Afonso played for the remainder of the game and very well, and we – mothers and fathers and the many people of the rugby club that were watching the game – cheered madly, calling out to them…the players of the younger teams were singing and playing drums and it felt very much like a party. I shouted so much that by the end of the match my voice was hoarse…but it was exciting. Moreover, a friend of mine whose son had suffered a serious injury in his leg during a game a few months ago was there, as this was the first match he was playing since his injury – it’s always great to have good company, and she cheers as much or even more than I do!

Two weeks ago I also came home happy and proud, after a fantastic afternoon watching the rugby match under the spring sun. On both days, also relieved – the feeling, I suppose, of all rugby mums when the game goes well and our sons do not suffer any injury – this being the most important thing of all. After all, as much as I love watching them win, I usually say that, for me, the day is won when they come home whole and uninjured!

But, I must say, seeing them on the field, so concentrated, so sure of themselves, so clearly enjoying the fact that they are part of the team playing the game, helps me forget moments of anxiety due to concussions, a broken arm and a torn ligament, and believe that, even so, it has been worthwhile, as I’m certain this sport is one of the best things they have in their lives. Just the other day, as we were going to have dinner for Mother’s day, they were talking about their respective games that weekend, exchanging their points of view, discussing technical aspects of both games…and I felt so happy seeing them like that, two brothers so different in some things yet so similar in others, and undoubtedly united by their love of rugby.

And now I have to stop writing, as Pedro has just finished taking his long shower – he was dripping and freezing when he came home – and is now asking me to give him something to eat. No wonder…after all the exercise, they come home famished…and tired. But happy – because playing rugby is one of the things they love most in the world. As for me, I love the fact that they are such good players and so keen at this sport, that has given them so much, but most of all an incredible team spirit and values that, as well as the friends, will certainly accompany them for life.