By Samiur Rahman, YSR from Bangladesh.
The famous quote of Liverpool legend Bill Shankley about Football- “the game is much more than life and death”-has become cliché now a days. But in Hong Kong’s annual rugby extravaganza HK SEVENS certainly fits that billing. It’s not just like any other sporting tournament that is happening around the corner. It's more like the annual fanfare, festival of colors, joy, excitement and many more! It’s more than rugby, much, more than the game and certainly involves many, more than just the players and officials.
Rugby Seven is the short, quick, faster, more thrilling and exciting version of the game invented in the Rugby school of Warwick shire, England. It's fast paced, exciting and eye-catching. With the slogan of “Where The World Comes To Play” this year the Dynamic City Hong Kong is staging 42nd annual Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, which presents a promising great electrifying ambiance inside the stadium – both on and off the field. And yes, the organizers are keeping up their words! HK7 is like the biggest party of Hong Kong, where people come to enjoy to the fullest. To the dwellers of perfumed harbor of the East, the HK7 is just not a sporting event, it’s a lifestyle! People of many nationalities make the South Stand of Hong Kong Stadium as the center stage of DRESS AS YOU LIKE IT. Australians were found wearing their pride, the bright yellow and the Brits dressed up with Union Jack Theme. Some turned up wearing Chinese soldier’s military uniform, some came posing as members of SWAT. From classic video games character Mario to recent Hollywood release Wonder Woman, from Crocodile Hunter to Grizzly Beer, From Irish Green to Red Riding Hood people posing in as many costumes as you could imagine coming to the Hong Kong stadium for enjoying the games. Even though, it’s a hot summer weekend morning there is premium rush on the streets. Because, “the south stand” is the place where most of the Hong Kong people would want to be while HK7 is in the town! During my last one week stay in Hong Kong, I never faced traffic jam which is a common trait of Dhaka, but this trip to HK stadium located at Causeway Bay, nearly gave me a throwback and I clearly understand the reason!
The Hong Kong Stadium, located on the foothill of a high terrain, also holds the characteristics of the topography. A steep gallery, which climbs high, can house almost 40 thousand spectators though the area is not very wide like the cricket stadiums in Bangladesh. But inside, it is very well managed, equipped and organized. The security part is managed by professionals, who are very good at their works which make the lines moving in a good speed. The external areas outside gallerias are full with eateries, cooling corners and souvenir shops where the spectators can pass some joyful time when they are not watching the game.
Well, the entree and the dessert will be meaningless if the main-course is not good! Fortunately, the main course, which is the game here, is not just good, better. From the traditional super powers to new challengers, from seasoned campaigners to new kid on the block, HK7 has it all. The key attraction is obviously the Fiji team, Olympic champions of Rio 2016, where rugby sevens were included for the first time. Then there are the World Champions; ALL BLACKS from New Zealand. Gareth Bale might be the most coveted sportsperson in Wales, but their Rugby team languishes not too far. The Springboks from South Africa are also very famous in this sport and they are also running for the silverware. You can't expect a rugby tournament without England, the birthplace of the game! But like their very own football team, the English rugby team is also widely followed with high hopes but produce fewer results!
I watched three games which were completed in little less than an hour. Kenya was no match for New Zealand but the house clapped when they scored their first point to minimize the big deficit. The match between Fiji and Wales was very exciting and it produced a 17-17 draw in the end. With acrobatic displays of chasing and running by the sidelines was great to watch. But the most exciting part was the cunning dodge by the runners who skillfully go past the defenders to score for their team. Listening to the fast paced commentary by the broadcaster for a radio channel in Fiji was also a pleasure and at the same time it showed the popularity of the game in Polynesian islands.
The success story of Fiji can also inspire Bangladesh. Rugby is not a popular sport in Bangladesh, though the journey has started. Though rugby sevens is a game for elite athletes who are at the peak of their physical abilities because it takes a lot of running and sprinting with high intensity for 15 minutes, but the agility and maneuverability are also big parts of the game, where Bangladesh can look up with high hopes. Sri Lanka has a long history and fondness for rugby and they are also taking part in this HK7 tournament, though the results are not so much mention-worthy. But it showed the pathway. The physical structures of Sri Lankans are pretty much same as Bangladesh; the weather is also pretty similar. Who knows, with right direction, guidance and dedication one day Bangladesh could win it big in rugby too! Till then, hope for the best.