Sibongile Mafu

Romain Poite, I forgive you

2013-09-19 11:19

Sibongile Mafu

I'd like to think of myself as fairly forgiving. I can look past a lot of things, pull out that old clean slate and move forward. I’m a life coach’s worst nightmare.

And as I’ve grown up, there’s a lot more rationality, or at least the appearance of rationality, that has slowly crept into how I handle things, more than I ever thought possible.

But this past weekend, rationality and thoughts of forgiveness went out the weekend. While watching the biggest rugby game of the year between the All Blacks and the Boks, I was left cold. All thanks to one Mr Romain Poite, the referee for the game. He yellow-carded the man who was playing out of his socks that day, Bismarck du Plessis, twice, to eventually send him off the field, and squash any kind of excitement the match had.

The first yellow card, which was handed to du Plessis for a tackle on All Black darling Dan Carter, a dubious decision that even had the level-headed Nick Mallett screaming at the television.

Let’s go back to the beginning. It was a chilly Saturday morning in Cape Town. A game that I had been looking forward to for months was about to start. Everywhere I looked leading up to that weekend, people were discussing The Game. South Africans from all over were planning breakfast braais and sneaky beers at 09:00 in anticipation for the biggest rugby game of the year.

Very few things get me up that early in the morning on Saturday. Funerals mostly, and maybe rare bouts of "wanting to exercise and be healthy". But this particular morning something bigger than our own mortality and quest for health and wellness woke me up. That morning I was woken up by the sheer excitement and tension that gripped my heart around the biggest game of the year. Little did I know that one man would turn all of that emotion and anxiety in one “foul” swoop. One man would effectively turn me into an angry person for a majority of the upcoming work week – and I only thought Carte Blanche was capable of doing that.

The French referee single-handedly affected the momentum and general tone of the game when he fouled Bismarck du Plessis, eventually sending him off the field in the second half.

There have been painful sports moments we’ve had to “get in the past. Mostly around the South African cricket team in big tournaments. Moments where the team or individual you support was wronged either by a nonsensical weather rule or an incompetent match official who was having an off day, or off career. Football fans feel the brunt of it week in, and week out with the clubs they back. Cries of injustice from whichever corner seem to have become part and parcel of the game.

You shrug a lot of it off. This is sport. This is life. Some things just don’t go your way and learning to accept it shows your true character and maturity as a sports fan. You can throw your toys out of the cot for a few hours, but get it together after that. What’s done is done. But after that game, a numb feeling enveloped Bok supporter. “RE-DO!” They collectively screamed. Some even saying they’ll never be able to forgive Poite. Ever. I was part of that group for a little while. Internally and externally hurling abuse at a man who just got it wrong.

And the great thing about sport is, the All Blacks and the Boks will meet again. I just don’t want to bump into Poite at the airport.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs.
Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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