Madagascar: Enjoying the 2012 Africa Cup of Rugby

Madagascar is playing host to the Confédération Africaine de Rugby (CAR) Championship Division 1B competition from July 4 to 11.  The other nations in the group are Morocco, Namibia and Sénégal. While the country has been marred in severe economic  and political crisis since the 2009 coup, the Malagasy population is trying to escape their daily struggles by getting behind the Malagasy National Rugby Team also known as the “Makis de Madagascar” (The Maki Lemurs of Madagascar). The CAR competition also serve as qualifiers for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.

Entertaining matches

All the matches between the 4 nations were played at the national stadium of Mahamasina in the capital city Antananarivo. The matches drew a bit of a crowd, with an estimated official attendance of 40,000 for the saturday game between Namibia and Madagascar (although attendance seems lesser to local observers.)

The Mahamasina stadium as seen from the hills of Antananarivo during the Morocco Madagascar match. Photo taken by the author

The national team brought out national unity and pride that have taken a serious hits with the current political situation. Probably taking a cue from the All Blacks, the Makis of Madagascar performed their own version of the haka before games:

Their victory against Namibia was a high-scoring affair (57-54). The match was an epic battle with a plethora of tries. Rémi Lestang sums it up [fr]:

Il a fallu attendre la fin des prolongations (43-43 à la fin du temps règlementaire) pour qu’un vainqueur se révèle. Grâce à un essai dans les dernières secondes, Madagascar s’est offert le scalp de la Namibie. Une victoire au goût de montée dans le groupe A et de progression au classement IRB : Après la rencontre, la sélection de Madagascar a gagné 14 places pour pointer désormais au 42ème rang mondial.

One had to wait for the end of the extra-time periods (43-43 at the of the regulation period) for a winner to be decided. With a try in the last seconds, Madagascar finally overcame Namibia. A win that allows Madagascar to climb into Group A and in the IRB ranking: after the match, the malagasy national team gained 14 ranks to be ranked 42 worldwide.

Here are the highlights of the game courtesy of Madagate:

Unexpected memes related to the games

The games were high on entertainment and malagasy citizens online are also buzzing over satire surrounding the games. The following photo taken during the game between Morocco and Madagascar was widly shared and attested to the tightness of the game.

Madagascar national team players pulling all strings to stop Morocco from scoring via Théo Rafenitisoa on Facebook

Another meme that had the Malagasy blogosphere talking was the interview of Namibia's captain conducted by a national TV reporter. On the following video after the game, the reporter is clearly conducting her first interview in English. While she meant to ask what troubles Namibia faced during the game, she instead asked the Namibian captain: ” What is your problem ?” Credit must be given to the captain for playing along and not taking offense even after a close defeat. He answered the question that he guessed was meant to be asked.

Malagasy bloggers had various reactions to the interview ranging from light humor to an extrapolation on the quality of journalism in Madagascar:

TheNickCartman wonders [mg] :

To tsisy nanao traduction

So no one actually translated? (editor's note: the captain's answer)

Andrianary Jean Daniel gives credit to the captain for not missing a beat even though he was expecting another question [mg]:

Ilay bandy ary mbola miandry be ilay fanontaniana manaraka
tonga dia borkena fotsiny hoe thank you. Raha izaho aloha ny mpanao gazety ka mpilalao alemà ny eo raha tsy haiko ilay teny tsy hanon-tany zavatra@ teny alemà izany eh ny kiana ho entina mantsara zavatra

The player was expecting another question but she abruptely cut the interview off and said thank you. If I were a reporter and a german player was to be interviewed, I would not ask in German because it's better to not risk any misunderstandings.

Thierry Ratsizehena believes a reporter should be held to higher standards [mg]:

Amiko, mpanao gazety io. Izany hoe matihanina, tokiny mahafehy tsara ny asany. Raha nanolo-tena hanao interview olona amin'ny teny anglisy dia mahafehy tsara ny “conversation” amin'io teny io izany izy (jereo ry Nelson Monfort amin'ny France Televisions). Kanefa, teto dia “risible” ny zava-niseho hoy ny vazaha. Ary olona maromaro no nahatsikaritra izay fa sao misy miteny indray hoe vao noforonina. Mila mahataty tsikera raha te handroso. Ny an'ny vazaha aza mbola mafy lavitra

In my opinion, she is at the site of the event as a reporter. Therefore she is supposed to know her job and master the questions to be asked. If she volunteered to conduct the interview, then she should be prepared for a conversation in English (an example of this is the french sports reporter Nelson Monfort for France Televisions.) And yet, here her performance was so embarassingly laughable, as the westerner would say. Don't anyone dare say that I am making this up, one knows many people here feel it was also embarassing. For reporters to get better they need to accept constructive criticism. The critics are much harsher abroad.

Zewizewi thinks the comparison is unfair at this stage of malagasy journalism [fr]:

C'est ridicule de comparé ça à Nelson Montfort,  déjà France télévision et TVM c'est dix milliards d'années d'écart à mon avis ce genre de personne n'aurait mm pas dû apparaître à l'écran (..) en tout cas la TVM n'est pas la seule chaîne à connaître ce genre de problème, zéro maîtrise du direct.

It is ludicrous to compare her with Nelson Montfort or to compare France télévision and TVM (Malagasy national television) for that matter. There is a 10 billion year gap between the two. To me, that person should have never appeared on screen (..) In any case, TVM is not the only [TV station] with this kind of problem, they have no know-how of live television.

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