New Zealand: Not for Kicks

Rugby is also political football

Speaking from the pulpit, Father John McAlpine warned the parishioners of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Auckland that many New Zealanders worshiped "a false idol, a leather ball." The priest was referring to the national passion for rugby.

The occasion was the New Zealand Rugby Football Union's invitation to the South African Springboks, a world class team whose predominantly white composition (just one black) all too clearly reflects its government's views on racial segregation—and inflames controversy far beyond the realm of sport. Demonstrating against South Africa's policy of apartheid, New Zealanders last week staged their worst civil disorders...

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