C'wealth Games: Unique passion as fans charm Ibrox

C'wealth Games: Unique passion as fans charm Ibrox
Fans hold a Scotland flag during the Rugby Sevens pool matches at Ibrox Stadium during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on July 26, 2014

At the games

Exiting a train station near Ibrox Stadium, it was immediately apparent that this was not a typical Commonwealth Games event.

For one, pleasantries were not observed, as a middle-aged man with a Scotland flag draped around his shoulders mocked a young woman whose face was painted in England colours.

Nearby, "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" rang out as a boisterous group from Down Under marched proudly towards the storied venue.

At a food stand, a New Zealand supporter proudly proclaimed that his team would "wipe the floor clean" in dealing with their purportedly hapless opponents.

Welcome to the testosterone-filled world of rugby sevens - the only all-male event at the quadrennial showpiece.

Over the past weekend, a total of 171,000 fans thronged Ibrox - home of well-known Scottish football club Glasgow Rangers - though an oval ball and man- mountains dominated the limelight.

For perhaps the first time at Glasgow 2014, England were booed by a raucous crowd whose cheers and jeers seemed to shake the foundations of the 115-year-old structure.

They were, after all, battling Scotland for a spot in the fifth-place play-off.

The hosts were eventually downed 12-15 in a thrilling encounter that bore all the hallmarks of the sport's condensed version - crisp passing, slack tackling and dizzying sprints.

Despite losing to the Auld Enemy on home soil, the Scottish team received a standing ovation during their lap of honour.

"So proud of these lads - them playing their hearts out means more to me than a medal in another sport," said Aberdeen native Alasdair Harley, tears welling up in his eyes.

In between the 14-minute matches - where checking a mobile phone for even a few seconds will see you lose track of the action - spectators sang and swayed to classic tunes like Sweet Caroline and I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles).

It was indeed a carnival atmosphere, one that Singapore should look to recreate when rugby sevens makes its SEA Games debut at the Sports Hub next June.

It was perhaps apt that Glasgow's colourful and passionate audience witnessed history in the making.

New Zealand had never lost a single match since the sport was introduced at the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur - until Sunday's final.

Trailing 0-7 early on, a rampant South Africa denied their arch-rivals a fifth straight gold with a stunning 17-12 come- from-behind victory.

Two-try hero Seabelo Senatla said: "We are always confident about our structures and the way we are set up.

"So it was never a doubt for the players that we could beat the Kiwis."

Shaking his head dejectedly, All Blacks captain D.J. Forbes said: "We are part of the legacy that has gone before us - we'd never been beaten.

"As a New Zealand rugby player, it is disappointing to come second."

Definitely not your typical Commonwealth Games event.

nsanjay@sph.com.sg

This article was published on July 29 in The Straits Times.

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