Rugby as a sport is played out in a field with several players hugging a ball and trying to bring it to the their opponent’s goal. So when Marco mentioned that he bought tickets for wheelchair rugby for the three of us, I was skeptical as to how they’ll play the game.
The difference? The players are on wheelchairs, played indoors, and only 4 players to a team. It’s a cross between basketball, handball and hockey wherein you have to dribble the ball once every 10 seconds while it is in your possession and you have to bring the ball to the goalpost on your opponent’s side. They have penalties which is similar to hockey like one minute suspension and has a special area where the penalized player will have to stew.
According to wikipedia, the original name of wheelchair rugby is murderball (sounds gruesome) and it was developed in Canada in the late 1970s for athletes with disabilities. The Olympic defending champion in this event is the US team but Canada, Australia and Great Britain are catching up.
Anyway, when we arrived at the stadium, the game was already underway. The match was between Australia and Great Britain. In the Australian team, the player which impressed me most was Ryley Batt (#3). He’s 19 years old and has been playing this sport since he’s 12. He is very aggressive and is the top scorer for the Australian team. The other team needed 2 to 3 players just to subdue him but he still outwits them and score goals. Australia is currently playing against the US for the gold medal match. I hope they win just to smite the US. hehehe!
In the second match that evening, the two teams were Germany and New Zealand. We didn’t finish it but one player stood out because of his unique disability and how he played the game. The German player is Salih Keosoglu. What’s unique about Salih is, even though his left hand is amputated from the elbow down, he still aggressively steals the ball from the other player and zooms across the court like he owns it. He is not at par with Batt but he’s one of the best players in the German team.
At the end of the day, I feel a different respect to these players. They have a disability and yet they overcome it. They are enjoying themselves and are playing for their country. I can’t say that for myself so I’ll just root for them and respect them.
Photo Credits: Getty Images and 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games website.