Kenny’s Kickabout
PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 March, 2014, 10:54pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 January, 2015, 3:05pm

Easily offended? Perhaps this is not for you ...

Here are a few colourful stories from our reporter Kenny Hodgart, whose eyes and ears are on the ground


Formerly a staff journalist at SCMP, Kenny Hodgart has lived in Hong Kong since 2011. He comes from Scotland, which remains part of the United Kingdom, but his views are almost exclusively his own. He suffers from status anxiety more than some but less than others.

Is it ever OK to make light of tragedy? If it is, sometimes, then when? And if not, why not? And who decides?

Perhaps those in the crowd attired as airline pilots - channelling, to adopt the fashion industry's argot, the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 with 239 people on board - mulled the moral niceties long and hard before dressing yesterday.

Or perhaps they didn't. Topicality is king in the domain of fancy dress; it's like Twitter, only with costumes instead of keystrokes. Getting done up in radiation suits is so 2011.

Funny or not, there's a gory instant celebrity about pilot garb, as the amiable Kiwi gentlemen I spoke to recognised.

They had, they said, ordered their outfits for this weekend's tournament some time ago.

When news of the plane's disappearance broke three weeks ago, they hesitated, but their qualms were easily mastered. Their next thought was to incorporate a black-box recorder into the ensemble, "but it was doubtful that would get past security".

One imagines the same impulse drives the popularity of the website Sickipedia, where a tab advises: "Click here for all the best missing Malaysia MH370 jokes."

There is a theory that empathy in the wake of a tragic event diminishes the more geographically or culturally remote people feel from it; or, to put it more directly, Westerners mourn less for disasters in places where there are fewer white people.

Not an easy thing to gauge, I don't suppose, but on the other hand studies have confirmed that 9/11 jokes originated - in America - the day after the attacks, so it'd be wrong to conflate dubious taste and discrimination. Either way, if avoiding the former is a priority, the Hong Kong Sevens may not be your thing.

Down and out in Wan Chai

It has come to our attention the most-read Sevens story yesterday was about an Australian chap who was dispossessed of "almost HK$10,000 in foreign currency" after he met three African ladies in Wan Chai.

Police were keen to warn other tourists in town for the rugby that "butch African women" operating in the area are deliberately targeting drunken expatriates in pubs on Lockhart Road and Jaffe Road.

Another victim who tried to resist when he realised he was being robbed found himself deposited in a rubbish bin.

Perhaps, understandably, the Australian fellow did not come forward with more details of his misadventure and his identity remains a mystery. Police mounted a search for the women but no one was arrested.

Instead, the reports stressed the intimidating scale of his assailants, who, we learn, were "powerfully built" and "stood about 1.8 metres tall" - proportions which would not preclude them, you might well think, from engaging in a more legitimate form of scrimmage this weekend.

Scientists announced the other day that they have discovered a new planet. Or at least they think it's a planet; they're not quite sure.

Their uncertainty will be familiar to followers of rugby. Seeing an actual, fully formed rugby player can induce a kind of wonder, even terror, similar, it might be supposed, to that engendered by the movement of tectonic plates.

Similarly, the rugby-going populace is little known for its shrinking violet tendency, either in appearance or temperament.

What I am driving at is this: could it be that our Australian friend, accustomed to being able to handle himself, magnified the immensity of his muggers out of embarrassment? It is to be hoped so.

Visitors to Wan Chai must not succumb to fear. Keep calm and carry on drinking is probably the best advice.

It's more 'physical' and players more 'muscular'

With Fiji going for their third hat-trick of wins this weekend, one of their biggest fans in the crowd will be former captain Samisoni Rabaka Nasagavesi.

The 44-year-old played in the Sevens four times but hasn't been back at the event since 2003, his last appearance. When we bumped into him he told us he was here on a "sort of pilgrimage, with my missus and her mate", both of whom had gone shopping but would join him at Hong Kong Stadium tomorrow.

Now living in Australia, the former scrum half won 29 caps for Fiji at XVs but lamented that even now rugby was not as lucrative a career prospect for Fijians as in other nations.

"There is more support than there was when I was playing but there's still not a lot of money or sponsorship," he said. "Despite the fact that everyone in Fiji plays from the moment they can run."

Rabaka's first experience of the Hong Kong Sevens came in 1992, when he played in the Fiji side that beat New Zealand 22-6 in the final, the second time they had won three tournaments in a row here. His main memory of the game is that it was raining.

More discomforting was the Scottish rain he experienced the following April, when he played in the very first World Cup Sevens at a muddy Murrayfield, losing to England in the final.

Rabaka recalled fondly, however, that "in those days you just ran from one end of the pitch to the other, just like playing touch", adding that Sevens is now more of a structured game. "It's become more physical, there's more breakdown, more stoppages. And the players are more muscular."

Standing 1.88 metres, Rabaka weighed 89kg in his playing days. A skelf of a lad.



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