Saturday, September 19, 2015

Some thoughts on the curious case of Cibi-gate

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A World Cup in any code is a time for a particular sport to be celebrated...of that there is no doubt.  A time to capitalise on the international exposure to give a wider audience a taste of what we long term fans feast on week-in week-out during the four-year gap between these tournaments.

But for me anyway, it is also a time for self-examination, when we appreciate that we’re fooling ourselves if we believe our sport to 100% perfect.  And a rugby ball hadn’t even been kicked before we got our first sign of imperfection.

This is a very curious case that has a lot of questions yet to be answered so what I’ll do first is present it as I experienced it.

I rearranged my entire universe to ensure I was sat before the TV at 6pm to witness the beginning of Irish network TV3’s coverage.  I’ll write more on that as the tournament progresses, but let’s just say I thought they got off to a decent start and in many ways it’s refreshing to see a different studio lineup for these occasions.

Where the focus of this post begins is after an ad break right before kickoff.  The Fijians do a pre-match “war dance” akin to the All Blacks’ “haka” which they call the “Cibi” (pronounced “thim-bee”).

From our perspective watching we found it disrespectful not only to see that the TV producers returned from an ad break in the middle of the ritual, but also it appeared that Twickenham Stadium PA system was blaring a recording of the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” in the midst of it.

And so, as any self-respecting twitter account holder would do, I proceed to get my tweet on to register my disgust…
Then the match continued as normal and we all know how that went.  But this morning it appears the reality of what happened may be a bit different...check out this YouTube clip which features the same footage as that we saw as the Rolling Stones were being played…
So, it would appear that what actually happened was that the Twickenham crowd were singing “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” as the Fijians were doing their dance.  So why did we hear Mick Jagger on the telly here?

Of course when it comes to topics for discussion at this World Cup there are much bigger fish to fry but as far as I’m concerned, this isn’t something for sweeping under the carpet so I’ll outline the points I feel are relevant and leave it at that.
  • Overall, this incident shows a lack of respect towards the visiting Fiji squad and reflects poorly on English rugby in general.
  • When it comes to actual responsibility, while it appears that the music was actually an attempt to drown out the crowd singing, I still blame the organisers.  The draw for this tournament was made I think back in 1883 so they had plenty of time to prepare for this moment.  80,000 mostly English fans, many of whom would have a drink or six on doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that all it took was a few to start singing “Swing Low” and they’d all be at it no matter what was going on out on the pitch.  Now maybe they did make an attempt to ask the crowd to be respectful but if they did, it clearly wasn’t enough.
  • Having said all of that, I should point out that in general I’m not the biggest fan of these pre-match war dances, not even the haka.  I say that not from a traditional rugby fan’s point of view, rather from an overall “fair play” sports fan’s one.  Particularly on international occasions, my core belief is that all steps must be taken to make playing field level for both sides, and allowing one to have an edge on pre-match intimidation doesn’t seem fair IMO.  But that view doesn’t mean I believe the way to protest is to drown it out as it’s happening.  Were it ever to be stopped I’d expect the talking to be done off the field and any day but that of a match.
  • As you can see above, my tweet got RTed a few times so it seems others were also annoyed by the incident.  But some of the replies I got went a little too far, taking the opportunity to have a go at English people in general.  I must of course distance myself from this.  My objection is with the RWC organisers because they are being well paid courtesy of several multinational sponsors and had a lot of time to prepare for this moment.  As far as I’m concerned it has nothing to do with the nationality of the people involved.
  • For me anyway, this topic is much more worthy of discussion than that of Nick Mullins’ reported comments during the ITV commentary.  Yes, of course it was a dumb-ass thing to say.  He’s a professional and what made him think those words would be acceptable is beyond my comprehension.  However, again I must draw attention to the amount of time the organisers had to prepare for handling the Cibi dance, as opposed to the split second between the thought forming in Mullins’ head and it spilling into his microphone.
So to summarize, while I hardly think this is a tournament-stopping topic (you can bet your bottom Euro I won’t be thinking about it as Ireland v Canada kicks off!), I do believe it’s one that needs to be aired, not ignored, and I can’t find anything about it in cyberspace this morning - maybe you can, if so by all means send it on and I’ll add it to the post. 

Let’s just say I sincerely hope we wouldn’t make a similar mistake if (when hopefully?) the World Cup is staged here in Ireland in 2023. 


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019