Saturday began with rugby and ended with pancakes, and Amsterdam was a wonderful host in between. But yeah, it really did start with rugby. This uncle of mine once taught 6 innocent young girls, myself included, the tune and lyrics to a very dirty, dirty rugby song. We committed every word to memory in a matter of minutes and have been known to break out into song in very public places ever since. It’s so inappropriate. Never gets old. That said, I had never seen a rugby game, start to finish, until Saturday. With my dad and uncle as former players of the sweaty and ruthless sport, I jumped at the chance to catch a game on TV. An Australian pub in Leiden is showing every World Cub game this season (match? fixture? tournament?) and so The Duke of Oz is where a group of us met at 8 am.
Walking into the pub was like walking into a warm and cozy cave; there was a cool mist in the air when I cycled along the canal that morning. Guys donned jerseys and nursed strong koffies. The old regulars were parked in what looked to be their own seats – a spot along the bar, a corner by the television, on the worn leather couch. The two bartenders gave knowing, welcoming nods to us as we walked in. At half, they walked around offering free handmade cheese sandwiches for everyone, genuinely spreading the good spirit of the game around the room. The crowd was mainly Dutch, with a sprinkling of people from South Africa, Australia, Greece. We got loud when South Africa scored, which was often, and celebrated their win together.
A sports game of any kind has this intrinsic ability to bring different nationalities out of their own woodwork and into one pub. It can act as a common language; the game becomes this “third thing” and complete strangers find themselves rooting for the same team, together. Refs make calls and points are won and plays play out, and there’s a magic in the shared experience, I think.
I loved it, heading back on Thursday.