I took The Boy on a major rite of passage last week. In some cultures that’s a religious ceremony, in others an ordeal of combat, and in others a drinking and singing ritual. In my home country, it’s all three.
We went to the Millennium Stadium, successor of The National Stadium, Cardiff Arms Park where I saw my first international test match in 1990, and The Cardiff Arms Park where my grandfathers did the same.
We got ready and dressed as gentlemen should for the magnificent game: polished shoes, jeans, tweed jacket, old school rugby shirt, bobble hat, red scarf. We ate chips in the open air while he explained to highly amused, lovely South Africans at our table why faggots and butties are foodstuffs.
He was well briefed. With our pint of Brains and our jelly tots in hand, we sang the special songs loudly and out of tune, corrected the moronic ladies behind us screaming that a perfectly onside player was offside in open play, and shushed the person who started whistling the kicker. We cheered scores by both teams, and most importantly had a lovely time with the South African supporters all around us. He knows now that rugby is a game in which supporters sit together, where families and respect share the day, and in which the police horses are there only to be greeted by kids.
It was a moment of pride in every sense, and we’re doing it again.
Of course, we don’t always win. But, so far, he has a 100% win rate against the Southern Hemisphere…