A big game of tough gentlemen: Georgian rugby team beats Russia
14 March, 2017
Week 4 of the Rugby Europe Championship saw Georgia host the arch-rivals Russia at the Tbilisi’s Dinamo Arena stadium. The game ended with Georgia’s victory 28-14, which makes it the 4th win in a row for the Lelos.

According to the statistics, Georgia has never lost to Russia since 1993, but the game bears the temper of a battle field and always draws a particular attention because of the 2008 war between the two countries, which left the part of
Georgia’s territory occupied by Russia and up to 150 000 people forced out of their homes.
Georgian National Team. Photo by Georgia's Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs

Right before the match, when the players were warming up for the game, we had a chance to speak to Milton Haig, the head coach of Georgian National Team. Talking about the mood before the battle, Mr Haig told Georgian Journal that ‘everybody is pretty calm’ and that this is the way they are trying to approach every match.
Milton Haig, the head coach of Georgian National Team

“It always is a big game against Russia and one of the things we focus on is that we are trying to take emotions out of it, because when you add emotions to the sports, you make poor decisions, you don’t do the right things. So today it is considered just another game, but obviously it is a big game for us. They don’t need additional motivation, they just need clear heads,” the coach told us.

The Lelos opened the score pretty soon, on the 4th minute, when Giorgi Koshadze scored the first try. One of the most memorable moments of the match was a try by young Vasil Lobzhanidze, after a fabulous raid by Merab Kvirikashvili.
Vasil Lobzhanidze with Merab Kvirikashvili in the background. Photo by Georgia's Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs

The video depicting Kvirikashvili’s fabulous run between several Russian players became viral on the internet and Merab himself was named the Man of the Match.
Merab Kvirikashvili  awarded Man of the Match In the framework of the HeforShe campaign. Photo: Georgia's Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs
Team-mate Davit Kacharava congratulates Merab Kvirikashvili

There were some significant moments outside the pitch as well, including when the audience performed a ‘Mexican Wave’ with their mobile phones illuminated. It was like the rugby stars were playing against the sky full of real stars.
Another emotional moment was when one of the young men sitting in the audience, proposed to his girlfriend publicly. The moment was shown live on the scoreboard, with 55 000 people watching.
The proposal at the stadium

There were a couple of unpleasant incidents too, one of them taken place between the captain of Georgian team Mamuka Gorgodze and a Russian player, but the situation was soon brought to normal.

Another one concerned a group of Georgian fans who exposed a banner against Russia, which was taken down soon and followed by a short confrontation with the police.
A fan with Georgian flag ran into the field after the game

On the whole, the game proved to be full of respect to each other, which is one of the main approaches of the tough sport played by gentlemen. The Russian coach thanked Georgian fans and said that it is always enjoyable to play for such an audience.
Davit Kacharav's impressive try

It should also be noted that the game was a part of the campaign Men in Solidarity of Gender Equality, which is a part of United Nations global campaign HeforShe.

Nodar Andghuladze, the former national rugby team player and now the Player Welfare Coordinator of the team told Georgian Journal, their main goal is to raise awareness on the topic:
Nodar Andghuladze, Player Welfare Coordinator of Georgian National Team

“We are against any kind of violence, beginning from the so-called locker room talk to any other kind of violence, especially against women and girls. We try to to do everything to make at least one man change his mind. If at least one women is saved, then we can say that our mission is accomplished.”

This year their plan is to visit dozens of villages, where there are no rugby stadiums and talk to the locals not only about the sport, but also about the general values each rugby player follows. “These meetings are always based on a dialogue rather than a kind of lecture and this is exactly what brings good results,” Mr Andghuladze says.

In the frames of the project they have already opened several rugby schools in Georgia’s different regions, including conflict border-line villages of Shida Kartli.

This is not the only big mission Georgian rugby players are actively involved in.

There was another project called “We take rugby to the mountains,” with expeditions to the mountainous villages of Georgia, meeting children and telling them what the main values of this game are.

Levan Jobava, the author of the project "Rugby to this place" says, they went to more than 50 villages and met 1200 children, held three festivals. But the main success story is that three rugby teams were created and two teenagers were brought to Tbilisi where they play for the local teams.

But let’s go back to the Georgia-Russia game. After the match the traditional “third half” was held, where Georgian and Russian players celebrated the unforgettable evening, notwithstanding the result. Everybody noted that sports have to be perceived apart from politics and this is the very game they loves so much, a game
which unites every single one of them and that is why they call each other “brothers”.
Photo: Georgian Rugby
Photo by Georgia's Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs

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