Archive for the 'sport' Category

Origin fever / Badass cops

The third State of Origin game is only about eight minutes old, but I’m already satisfied with the spectacle. Hulking giants heaving each other and indulging in many cringe-worthy ‘eat my shoulder’ moments. Shoulder of ham perhaps, shoulder of brute – I’ll leave that to the professionals.

The popularity of rugby league in PNG is one of the quintessestial facts of this country. The fact that PNG is the only country worldwide where league is the national sport is usually mentioned in the same breath that informs PNG has roughly one third of the world’s known languages and tends to have law and order issues. You can reiterate such details to the extent that they become close to meaningless, just like the Wikipedia entries you only half bother reading. It’s when you delve into the anecdotal that things get interesting again and you get a better idea of how (if not always why) something like a football game is significant.

A few people I’ve spoken to about the crazy popularity of the State of Origin games usually append an anecdote describing the sounds of loud splashing in Koki and Hanuabada – the noise of television sets hitting the water, of course. More scientific-minded types will assure you television sales rise sharply after Origin games thanks to enraged spectators trying to intervene directly in the game’s outcome via their own screens. More dour types (and of course the newspapers) will tell you about husbands venting violent frustrations on wives, or a footy-crazed young men murdering their own brothers for the eminent crime of supporting the other team. I was struck by the silence in our own neighbourhood after the second game, and wondered if it was all a beat-up. Then two days later reports of the brutal murder of three young guys at the hands of a wild mob in the Five-Mile area after the game surfaced. Who knows what they said and why an entire mob had cause (if any) to chop them to pieces. The point is it happened on Origin night, and hence became part of the gory folklore. Why such murderous reputations seem to be reinforced by actual events is beyond many Papua New Guineans. To be fair most people I meet are absolutely perplexed as to why any of their countryfolk would get so worked up over an Australian sporting match. It’s not that they don’t like the game – they invariably do – but they know it’s a game involving Queenslanders and New South Welshmen. Not a Papua New Guinean on the field (except Kumuls player Neville Costigan – depending on how one defines nationality).

Despite the lack of geographical relevance the ‘blues or maroons’? question is a common one this time of year. It’s sometimes hard to explain why, despite being born in NSW and having grown up in NSW, the maroons are my team of choice. It’s a bit technical explaining that the home town was only twenty minutes from the border, that Brisbane was a bigger feature of my youth than Sydney, and I was just going for the same team my mates did. But for some reason I persist. It also helps to weave a ‘conflict with the missus’ aspect into my explanation – ‘missus blo mi em laik blues, tasol mi laik maroons. Mi gat bigpla hevi.’ What I never, NEVER admit is that since I was about 12 years old I haven’t really given a toss about footy. That would be criminal. Besides PNG does funny things to longlong dimdims and I have found myself enjoying the Friday Night Football in a non-ironic fashion from time to time, and as for the game tonight it is good to see the Blues have reclaimed their spirit, I expect that if this had been the second game the series would have been a NSW win, the opening was fierce as you would expect from a real Origin match and GOOD GOD there goes that bastard in the pink shoes again, SMASH HIM!

The police reaction to the aforementioned post-Origin murders was predictable, and yet another ho-hum horror that seems to reflect a standard ‘truth’ about PNG – the cops are badasses. Without going into specifics the police reacted with a mix of burned houses, evicted squatters and beaten heads – and probably a few more murders, who knows. The heavy handedness was because one of the murdered men was in fact the son of an MP. Cops don’t like losing face over here. They don’t mind being off their faces, typically at road blocks, but losing face thanks to a high profile murder or robbery really ticks them off. The so-called millennium bank robbery in Moresby a few years ago involving a brash helicopter escape is a good example. Somehow, mysteriously, none of the robbers survived arrest after their helicopter was shot from the sky – eyewitnesses did report they were quite alive at time of apprehension however. Another great example is an anecdote I heard last night from a guest who lives in the East Sepik bush. He described a local policeman’s solution to a stray dog wandering on an airport runway – unload a full clip from his M-16 in the dog’s general direction. The scene seems so ludicrous when I imagine it, I can’t help but wonder how the dog felt about it all. Yes, the canine survived, but was probably very confused afterwards.

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