The National Game
‘Weeeeee are the Champions my Friends!!!’ sung the late great Freddie Mercury.
Actually that’s not a song I can sing right now. All of my teams, excluding the All Blacks, are not quite there. In Rugby, the Crusaders have once again proven they are the most consistent Super Rugby side in history by making yet another semi-final but falling at the second to last hurdle (Well done the Chiefs by the way). The NZ Warriors have gone from the bottom of the table to just outside the playoff positions in the Rugby League. Unfortunately the thought of making the top eight put them off their game this week and they remain an outside chance. In Football, the less said about Liverpool the better. They have made some sensible signings this summer but they still have the world’s biggest lunatic at striker and Steven Gerrard is a bit long in the tooth. Because of this spate of ‘not quite good enough’ I seem to be exposed to, I have decided to jump aboard the Ice Hockey bandwagon.
Last weekend my family and I travelled north of the border to Belfast to attend the WPFG (the World Police and Fire Games). My brother-in-law Morgan Nearing is a member of the Toronto Courts – an Ice Hockey team made up from members of the Toronto Police Service. They started well dispatching the PSNI in front of thousands of ‘Loyal’ supporters and then comfortably saw off Reykjavik which is the largest city in Iceland (where ice was invented). From there things took a turn as Toronto lost in extra-time to Las Vegas. It was a result that no one could figure out. Not even Sin City’s most famous CSI – Gil Grissom. Normal service resumed as Toronto took out a much fancied Finnish side and the UK Fire-fighters. It came down to the gold medal match against North America Blue and, as I was in Wexford, I was desperately combing Twitter for a hint of an update. Ten minutes after the match was finished (the time it takes for a tweet to get from Northern Ireland to the Republic) we discover the Courts had won by two clear goals. It was a great effort from a team who had never played together before and carried half the squad size of other competitors. As the ‘Barnacles’ backpackers’ manager said in Temple Bar after measuring up this side… “That’s the biggest hockey team I’ve ever seen’. I concur…Well played Courts!!
This momentary interest in Hockey got me thinking about the Canadian’s National game and in fact the varied national games of each individual country. It’s quite clear to me in places such as South America and the many nations of Africa that few other sports struggle to shine above Football/Soccer but what about the rest of the world? Let’s take a look at a few nations and their respective national games.
Ireland – Gaelic Games (Namely Gaelic Football and Hurling). Dublin is an outside chance to do the double this year and if they do, by god there will be one almighty party in Temple Bar. Bog Snorkelling is not actually an Irish sport although it is contested here – It was in fact invented by the Welsh.
Australia – Should I mention the Cricket? Australia have just lost at their national game to England who successfully defended ‘The Ashes’. There is of course Australian Rules football and it may well become Australia’s national game after that hiding. Rules Football is a little too closely derived from Gaelic Games for my liking however and no-one else plays it, so international bragging rights are nil.
Brazil – Why am I mentioning Brazil? Because the hosts of next year’s FIFA World Cup have not adopted Soccer as their national sport. It is in fact the martial art of Capoeira which was defined as a national sport in 1972 (just two years after Brazil had completed a hat-trick of Football World Cup wins with Pele).
Madagascar – We all know that Rugby is the de-facto national sport of both New Zealand and Wales but you can add the home of the ring tailed lemur to rugby mad countries. They like to move it –move it!!
Sri Lanka – These regulars in the Cricket World Cup Finals won the tournament in 1996 and have made the semis a number of times. They have the most prolific spin bowler in history and a number of unforgettable talents who have shone since they joined test cricket in 1981. However in 1991 they declared that volleyball is their national sport. Go figure…