Rugga Culture Clashby Samora Chapman / 22.02.2010
On Friday arvy the Durban sea creatures flooded the ABSA stadium for a battle between demi-god beasts; the Sharks and the Cheetahs. I felt like a small fish in a social-shark tank, 30 000 strong. I entered the stadium amongst the patter of feet scuttling all over the massive concrete auditorium, like little creatures boarding a giant spaceship. Electric air. Red-faced men filled their goblets with golden chwala. Lighties paraded in slick shiny kit like diamonds in a cesspit. Boeries sizzled on the braai; sweating, oily and delicious as the fat-burn smoke billowed into the crowd. I tentatively snapped off a few flicks as eyeballs licked me up and down like I’m some kind of rare and slightly repulsive flavoured being. I shouldn’t have dressed like such a freaken artfag, I thought as my spine prickled.
“Hey bru,” I tuned the fellow at the turnstile, “where’s entrance B5?”
“Eish my man it’s on the other side. Give me 10 bucks and I’ll let you in here.” I grin at the cheeky bastard, duck past him and into the heart of the stadium, which opens up like a flower crawling with a thousand excited souls. The sound reverberates inside the open mouth like the noise from a scrambled TV. I can’t help the excitement welling up inside amidst the nostalgia of laaity days when I lived for a trip to the big game.
The battle had already begun as I took up my position in the little pit behind the posts. My eyeballs at about thigh level, as the thoroughbred gladiators trotted around the field like a different breed of humans, glistening with sweat. They looked more like racehorses, with their shiny bulging legs and calculated trained, movements. I imagined their brains like jockeys perched in their heads, giving sharp little shrill orders like, “Skop die bal!”
“Tackle die man!”
I whipped out my camera and shot off a few flicks like a pistol blazing and in moments I was swamped by security guards with little wires coming out of their cyborg heads. I was dragged off to a little posse of uniformed rugga throwbacks who obviously harbored bitterness for years of never making the first team, always being the kid who has to carry the little sand bucket onto the pitch and wash the smelly first team undies. I was met with folded arms and serious glares.
“Who sent you! What are you doing! Photos is not permitted anywhere in this stadium!”
Eish, if I’d known that, I wouldn’t have been waving my piece around like a paparazzi now would I?
“Sorry sir, I’m just a student you know doing this like culture study for tech.”
“You not from the media, boy?”
“Alright then don’t let me see you with that camera out, hear me?”
“Jassis, okay, can I get back to the game, I’m missing the action!”
Back to the pit just in time to see Kankowski thunder viciously across the line right in front of me! The laaities go wild as sharky sprays them down with his water gun. This is about the time I realize I’m in the under 18 zone. I look around guiltily, holding my camera tight and feeling both harassed and dodgy. Most of the play seems to be happening on the far side of the pitch. I can’t really follow the game without the digital glorification of my Samsung 700 inch flatron. No action replays, no slow mo’s, no sound effects or commentary. The lighties around me are completely oblivious as they continue their squabbling; throwing pop corn at each other and pausing only to attack an orange spotty man running around screaming, “Cheetahs!” like a complete loon. The crowd goes wild as the laaities pelt the man with bottles and pop-corn. provincial xenophobia is obviously a virtue on the battlefield!
The on-field battle’s not going as well, with the Sharks getting well licked by the binnelanders. I wonder if they get less pocket money when they play kak. Why is it that teachers grovel for a 100k a year and athletes clock up millions? Maybe we need athletes and movie stars; the heroes of society that seem larger than life; stronger, faster and more beautiful than the average. But how can something as trivial as a rugga match draw a crowd of 30 000 people; drinking beer, eating boeries, cheering, laughing and shouting in happy unison? I spose we all need a little escapism sometimes as a farmer somewhere in the depths of Suid Africa has a heart murmur over Heinrich Brussow’s latest steal.
After the game I trapped back out into the dark city. The fulfilled souls flooded back to their normal lives, as a street kid mime, his face painted white, stood frozen to the concrete like a sculpture of juxtaposed existence. I stopped to stare through the fence at the gold and grey trains laid up in the dark central yard with the new stadium rising up towards the heavens in the background. Sleepy and quiet. I imagined another world where everything was backward. An alternate reality where underground Graffiti artists are as big as Rugby stars. The stadium opened out and loomed over the train yard, the bleaches filled up with chanting, beer drinking crowds while graf writers in different uniforms (Adidas versus Nike) battled it out to see who could do the most burner whole car (ie, paint the best piece on the side of a train car, you big square). Little kids ran into the train yard with water bottles and fresh tins of Montana and Rustolium for the graf stars. A half time break for a quick massage and a pep-talk from the coach, who shouted at 2Kil for forgetting his sketch and reprimanded the toys (apprentice graf-writers) for messing up the fill-in. At that moment a train eased out the yard, and flipped me back to my reality. I spotted fresh Fiya and Gift pieces on the side of the train, and my heart gave a little murmur of its own. The underground has its rock stars too.
All images © and courtesy Samora Chapman.