The Magic of Rabadaa!

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There is always something magical that happens every time a group of people pick up a rugby ball to play a round of touch rugby, whether on a Tuesday evening before a training session or a random Sunday afternoon at a friend’s backyard.

Photo – Sydney Katiba.

There is something about Touch rugby that releases our inner ‘Waisele Serevi,’ you could be as old as a Mugumo tree or as young as I am, a marauding forward or a nimble footed back, a household star or an armchair analyst, the effect is the same.

It is in the allure of throwing those basketball passes that your coach has forever forbidden, the chicken wing pass that you saw Sonny Bill pull off and thought you could easily replicate. A chance to finally play a full game of touch rugby without the prop and lock turning it into a full contact session.

It is in the opportunity for the ladies to finally take it up to their male counterparts and remind them that what men can do…

The magic is in the opportunity for forwards to run a play, attempt going round that winger who always seems to score or finally gathering the eye foot coordination to deliver a successful side step. The magic is in a fan finally getting an opportunity to mix it up with the players, for that drunk guy who never passes up a chance to brag about how unplayable he was in high school, to finally walk the talk.

This magic is in settling old scores, the banter, about who can run faster than the other, who actually has rugby brains, who can make that TJ Perenara intercept, who can’t defend to save their lives and who can’t catch a pass..the list is endless.

This magic always goes a few notches higher whenever it is time to play touch at the Rabadaa Cup which is now in its fifth year.

At Rabadaa, it is never about the cash prize at the end, it is never about who wins, though it is a pretty great feeling to win (I know a thing or two about that feeling, the Tummy Boyz won it last year.)

For the six or so hours the tournament is played, we are one big happy rugby family. There are no stars, no better player than the other, whether you played at the Olympic Games, played at Newlands, at Twickenham or you are a first time rugby player, we are all equal, with one goal, have fun as we remember those who left before us.

To properly explain the magic of this tournament, I’ll have to tell you the story of how a bunch of fat blokes and three skinny guys won the it last year, against all odds. (Yes, I had to..)

A team at the Rabadaa Cup is usually made up of ten guys, when we got there at around 9AM, there was only four of us, all suffering from a monumental hangover from the night before. Of the four, only three could play, Pozza was the fourth guy, he made it clear that there was no way he would be able to run. Our first game was in 10 or so minutes so we decided to warm up as we wait for the rest of the guys.

Our warm up lasted a record one and a half minutes, there was this exercise where you stand in a circle, move in one direction then pass the ball in the opposite direction, to this day I can feel the nausea I felt that day after the first steps. “Eeeh wacha ikae aiseh, kwani ni World Cup?”

Looking around everyone seemed fresher and better prepared than we were, running through plays, while our play book was simple, go out have fun. We finally had quorum, 5 starters and 1 sub, somehow we won the first game against a team that plays touch every Sunday, as we walked back to our tent Syoks noted,”Sasa tushinde game next tuingie quarters..”

As if on cue, all of us looked at him in surprise, “Ndio tukafanye nini huko?” We all burst into laughter and ordered our first round of beers, it remains the fastest fundraiser I have witnessed. Our next game was against a very young Homeboyz side who we managed to side step and all of a sudden we were in the Cup quarter final, but first we had a round of beers to celebrate this remarkable achievement.

We lost the last pool game, not that we cared anyway, but those kids could play some serious touch rugby. Here we were at the cup quarter finals, can’t remember who we played but we won and all of a sudden we were in the cup semi, which we blazed through and here we were in the cup final, even we couldn’t believe it!

The final was against a side that could easily pass up for a Kenya sevens side (I won’t mention names as the World cup is around the corner) and what did we do to prepare for this monumental match? We had a round of shots before kick off and at half time then went on to win! What is it they say, that when you fail to prepare, you prepare to..UWONGO! Hahaha..

The magic of Rabadaa is much more than what happens on the pitch, it is the banter that precedes it and hits a crescendo at the tournament, it is getting your mates together, print funny looking t-shirts, running around together, making grand entrances and exits (See examples here here here and Here.)

It is in making one big run and literally feel your lungs leave your chest, but get back up to do it is in the reason we play. In the memory of the friends who have departed, who I imagine gather around to watch us have fun in their memory.

So dust up your trainers, get your mates and funky t-shirts ready and see you all on Saturday…

For more information on the tournament –

KWISHA…Nimeruka Nje!!!

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