The moment I saw Mr. Incredible (below) walking with his ticket looking for the right gate number, I knew it was going to be a different experience from the previous times I’ve watched rugby in Singapore. Yes, this is the first time I am experiencing HSBC Sevens Series but this is not my first rodeo...I mean rugby match!
"Mr Incredible". Photo: Aileen Asistio Clemente/ Team Nila
I have been a rugby fan ever since I was assigned to cover the two-day rugby sevens event in Singapore during the 2015 Southeast Asian Games (SEAG). Prior to that, my knowledge of rugby was limited to what I’ve seen or heard in the media. All I knew was that rugby was not a game for the faint-hearted, which later I have proven to be all so true. However, I also had the misconception that it was nothing but violence and machismo. This is not true and some of the nicest people I’ve met are rugby players.
I cannot claim to be a rugby expert but as part of my role during the SEAG, I learned the rules of the games a bit and now know enough to appreciate and understand the game better. As soon as the games were over during the SEA games, I was already on the lookout for where and when I can watch rugby again. I also followed closely the developments during the 2015 Rugby World Cup where the All Blacks won. Yes, I cried a little (OK, maybe a lot) when Sonny Bill Williams gave his gold medal to that boy.
In short, I was hooked on rugby. You can imagine my glee when I heard that 2016 was going to be an exciting year for rugby in Singapore with the Super Rugby and HSBC Rugby Sevens Series coming to our own backyard.
A view of the crowd at the National Stadium. Photo: Aileen Asistio Clemente/ Team Nila
As I was walking towards my entrance, I could already hear the crowd roaring. The first match was already underway. I hastened my pace to make sure that I make it to the stadium in time for the first All Blacks match of the day, which was coming up next.
As soon as I was in, I was pleasantly surprised at what I saw. Almost every single seat was occupied! Where did all these people come from? It was a much bigger crowd than the Super Rugby match I went to in the same venue back in March. Moreover, it was a stark contrast to the almost empty seats in Yio Chu Kang Stadium two days earlier when I watched the Southeast Asian 7s matches. (To be fair, it was a Friday).
Fans dressed up as Flintstones. Photo: Aileen Asistio Clemente/ Team Nila
Everywhere I looked, there were people in colorful costumes. I saw the Flintstones, two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spiderman 1 and 2 (yes), and something beyond my wildest dreams, a bunch of sumo wrestlers drinking beer with Super Mario. It was a visual feast!
Even "superheroes" are into rugby. Photo: Aileen Asistio Clemente/ Team Nila
For a moment I felt like I wasn’t in Singapore anymore with all these "ang mohs" (local slang for Caucasians) around me, waving flags of different countries, speaking in different languages. But then again I realised, this is Singapore! This is a country that does not have a single colour or race. And it is a great realisation that this rugby event has pulled people together in one venue for a common passion.
It was one of the most unforgettable events I have ever attended for many reasons. I am happy to hear that this is going to be an annual event in Singapore. I wish that because of this, more people will be interested in rugby and I get to see the day when local and regional rugby would get as much support.
This article was by Aileen Asistio Clemente, a volunteer with