Through the years I’ve come to accept my lot in life as a sports fan, one that’s deprived of championships and/or sustained success. There are exceptions like Team Canada in the 2002 & 2010 Winter Olympics but, by and large, I’ve endured a lot of disappointments and heartaches for the past twenty years. Despite all that, I’ve never been ashamed to be a supporter of the teams I’ve adopted: the Canucks, the Mariners, Everton, England (in footy), the Seahawks and the Whitecaps.
And then there are the New Zealand All Blacks.
What happened on Oct 23rd, 2011 was an event four million Kiwis have waited for twenty four long years: Their mighty and beloved rugby team has captured a second World Cup title. While I was not born in New Zealand nor have I ever visited this island country in the South Pacific, I consider myself a part of the four million since I am a dual New Zealand-Canadian citizen. It’s a little known fact that surprises a lot of people I know.
Shortly after my dad finished grade six my grandparents decided to send him to Christchurch (to live with relatives from my grandmother’s side of the family) in search of a better education and set up the possibility of the family moving to New Zealand. The latter did not happen but my dad got naturalized nonetheless and returned to Hong Kong after graduating from university. A few years later I was born and had the option of attaching myself to one of my parents’ passports (New Zealand or the old British Commonwealth Citizenship) for traveling purposes. If I remember correctly I was asked about it and proudly made the “pledge” to become a Kiwi. The rest, as they say, was history. Granted I was around five at the time and didn’t really know what was going on but, in hindsight, I was glad I made that choice. Otherwise I would have gone through a period of uncertainty with regards to my citizenship status prior to the 1997 Hong Kong takeover. But that’s a story for another time.
I only started paying closer attention to rugby about ten years ago and frankly am still learning the nuances of the game. With my somewhat indirect connection to New Zealand, it was a natural decision to adopt the All Blacks as my team. A glory hunter, I am not. In some ways I feel fortunate to have a connection with countries where a sport is so engrained in the national fabric that it can lift the spirits of the people: Footy in England; Hockey in Canada; and Rugby in New Zealand.
The 2011 Rugby World Cup final was not the entertaining spectacle I had hoped for but gripping to the very end. Aside from being relieved of the outcome, I was proud the All Blacks, amid the pressure of playing on home soil, produced the inner strength to overcome all their mistakes and win a match they could have lost. Alas the Eden Park magic lives on and a sense of indescribable joy and pride went through me when captain Richie McCaw lifted the Webb Ellis Cup; a feeling similar to one I felt when Canada won Olympic hockey gold in 2002. Driving home from *Cdn Gooner’s house that morning, I found myself humming “God Defend New Zealand”.
I’m not sure why I have not made my way down to New Zealand but I know I need to visit the country my father spent his formative years in. Better yet, it would mean so much if I can go back with him.