My job allows me to meet people and hear their special stories. This story that I have been told about the match between two rugby teams, Mogliano Veneto and Bath Rugby in Bath on Avon, has something magical about it.
This true story was told by Lucio Marin, entrepreneur in manufacture of elegant safety equipment and one of the sponsors of the rugby team of Mogliano Veneto in his country, Italy.
In 2013, Mogliano Veneto won the Italian rugby league championships and gained right of access to the European competition. A group of players in the hinterland of Venice then gained the chance to compete against the London Wasp, Bordeaux and other teams from countries with important rugby traditions behind them.
But nothing excited them more than their game played December 14, 2013 at Bath-on-Avon, a famous English town which owes its name to the Roman Baths (built in 43 AD) and the River Avon.
The difference between the two rugby teams can be felt even by the statistics: Mogliano Veneto is a club founded in 1969 whereas Bath Rugby is one of the oldest clubs in England, and was founded in 1865.
The football ground of Bath, the Recreation Ground (or The Rec), can hold 12,000 people and is located near the river, in a park in the center of the countryside. A part of the stadium is composed of detachable stands that are installed during summer so that the park can host cricket matches, another traditional English sport as well as these two rugby teams. For this reason, the stadium is not structured to maximise profitability from economic activities and royalties, and there is no real VIP area.
At Christmas the flight tickets were very expensive so the delegation of Mogliano supporters was composed of only 12 people, including sponsors, managers and fans. The results of the match were clear from the outset, and this could only increase the excitement of the players who felt strongly the honor of playing against clubs of ‘nobility’ in one of the “holy places” of rugby (remember that this sport takes its name from a British town).
On December 14, the visiting Italian delegation arrived at the stadium to meet their hosts and was sent from one gate to another until an usher told them that they had been honoured to witness the match from the window of a room in the nearby castle which is available to the President of Bath Rugby for the official delegationsofthe two rugby teams.
The small Italian delegation was received by the president who honoured them with a speech in Italian, with a classic English accent of a person who was not very familiar with the Italian language, but he respected his guests and treated them with all the honours of an important delegation. The President spoke of rugby, of the two rugby teams, of the profound value of sport and sports competitions for boys and for the community, and told them how financing of the team is felt as a duty for all local business owners.
The stadium was packed, though this was not to be a challenging game for Bath Rugby. In fact the game ended with the not unexpected result of 68 to 0, but the English players gave the visitors honour of playing hard to the end and not strutting off the field.
When the score was 45 to 0, the only fan of Mogliano in the stands took off his supporters’ hat and hid it under his jacket. His English neighbor, seeing the gesture, took off his hat to give it to the fan of Mogliano. Then he pulled out from under the Venetian’s jacket the hat of Mogliano team and wore it with ease and pride.
Perhaps Mogliano will not participate in many other international competitions between these two rugby teams, but the lesson of politeness and sportsmanship learned in this year by players, managers and fans will be in their lives forever.