Monday, 13 February 2012

The Rugby Match

Story inspired by this picture taken by Ray McManus that won the second prize Sports Singles as part of the World Press Photo awards.

It was only five o’clock but heavy cloud made the light terrible. The world had turned colourless and damp like a murky watercolour painting. Everything was a mix of grey and brown as the muddy field merged with the darkening sky.

Light rain had fallen all afternoon, but it wasn’t until the game started that it really began to pour. A sparse crowd of parents and friends huddled on the sidelines, peering out from under umbrellas and raincoats, hoods pulled low. The grass quickly disappeared and it became harder to pick out the pitch markings, while the two teams became indiscernible as mud coated every player from head to foot.
          The ball was even harder to handle than usual and both teams made mistakes regularly. The tackles still came in but running was treacherous and kicking suicidal. The players, though, barely noticed. For them it was just a part of the game.

Afterwards the janitor moaned loudly at the state of the corridors and changing rooms. He didn’t like rugby. When he’d been younger the tougher kids had always frightened him. Now wet winter nights and the prospect of a long evening cleaning made him miserable.
          This night was one too many. He quit.
            The next morning girls squealed as they tried to avoid the mess in the P.E. corridor, but he wasn’t there to hear. When the telephone rang he told the headmaster where to find the broom cupboard.

The next time the school had a match, the boys were told to change outside. This time they moaned, but they won: 34-8. Now they do it every time.

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