Museum of Rugby and Confucius

Rugby is a sport with a unique ethic that distinguishes the players and fans. It has a spirit that goes beyond sports and borders on life. The meeting between heads of two Rugby Museums has strangely reminded me of the teachings of Confucius. But first things first ….

The occasion of the match between the All Blacks and Italy, 2016 on November 12 brought the New Zealand team to Rome as well as Stephen Berg, the director of the New Zealand Rugby Museum. Stephen came to visit the Italian museum and meet its President, Corrado Mattoccia. In his honour a special 3rd Half dinner was organized. This is how the Italians finance the museu. The dinner was attended by over 300 people.

Italy and New Zealand are two very geographically distant countries that share the beauties of nature, earthquakes and two major museums of Rugby. Of course what the All Blacks can boast in some of the oldest stories and a unique prestige in the world that makes it special, but the Italian tales have not so surprisingly increased in recent years.

Needless to tell who the All Blacks are, how many world championships won (3) and what is the Haka (the Maori war cry performed by the players at the beginning of the games), but it is interesting to know other stories. Did you know that after the matches all players take turns tidying the changing rooms and leave everything neat, that respect for the family is so important that the jerseys are given to the wife or mother, and that there are no enemies but only rivals.

Stephen came to the Italian museum with his father Peter who, in addition to enthusing over the games of the All Blacks during this tournament, had been invited to a dinner at Buckingham Palace for the merits he has acquired as Chair of the NZ Branch of the Commonwealth Forestry Association. The ‘kiwis’, the nickname by which the New Zealanders are known in the English-speaking world, are part of the Commonwealth and share the British royalty with other countries such as Australia.

Peter, the father, watched his son from afar as Stephen and Corrado chatted and you could feel a very strong bond between them. This strong connection with the family, that then extends to the family of teammates when you play, as well as the fans of their team and finally to all the rugby fans, reminded me of Confucius.

According to the Chinese master, who lived in the fourth century BC, each of us should spend his life trying to improve himself and to do that is to engage in study and respect the fundamental values of the family and community relationships. Relations between people have something innately sacred that no man should ‘spoil’.

This is also the ethos of rugby and this is precisely the one on which the two museum directors debated: how much respect you must have for the past and the players who have demonstrated skill and humanity. According to Stephen their jobs as directors are extremely important to support the development of children.

The Rugby museum, preserving the memory of the great players, helps children to have positive examples to emulate. It helps you not to waste your energies, but to focus on positive challenges for your education and for the communities in which you live. Each Rugby museum collects the fruit in the medium term and its purpose goes beyond the time of the visit.

In New Zealand a section of the museum is interactive with the ability given to children to touch some memorabilia and to be challenged with a few games:

To allow children to touch some historical shirts, we made perfect replicas. We took a vintage weaving frame and prepared the jerseys by hand weaving. Then we sewed and embroidered the shirts by hand with the logo. To be picky, the only difference between the original and the copy is that the thread embroidery today is Chinese silk and once it was cotton … It was a big job but to the amazement of the guys there are ample rewards.

In Italy the experiment has involved combining art with the rugby museum and a project of ‘Art and Rugby’ has been launched in association with Energitismo which provided ceramic replica rugby balls, painted by an artist, representing aspects of the game. One of these unique balls was donated to the New Zealand museum.

The two directors looked like great friends, their passion and seriousness with which they enjoyed their roles led them to exchange tips on how to improve their roles in spreading of the sport. They agreed on everything even on the fact that, in the museum, children under 5 years old have a low concentration and just want to ‘play’.

Eventually we arrived at the Third Half with dinner prepared by the group of volunteers of the museum, to whom goes all my personal respect. All together we have sent our best wishes via ‘Snapchat’ to Stephen’s sister for her birthday.

Still doubt remains in my mind about what Confucius would think about the Third Half. I think he would have liked it!