On a recent Sunday afternoon there was a friendly soccer match between one of the Ubuoo teams and a team from a nearby village. I say friendly, but as sport is basically socially endorsed organised warfare, I'm not sure there is ever a truly friendly match, as there is always rivalry.
I wandered down late in the afternoon to watch the game, once the heat was out of the day. Walking along the side of the field I was greeting people good afternoon about every three steps. Others can walk along and only say hi to friends, everyone says hi to me, weather they know me or not. Soon enough I found a friend, and sat down to watch the match with them.
As I sat down the place they had been happily sitting, in the shade at the foot of a coconut tree, was no longer deemed safe, in case a coconut fell. Someone was dispatched to get a mat and we were soon sitting away from the tree, on the mat, in the shade. Our place under the tree soon filled with people who had been concerned for my safety, but appeared unconcerned for their own.
I do not follow sport, so watching the game was a purely social affair for me. I suspect that the game was rougher than soccer is usually, as all the players were more familiar with rugby, and occasionally slipped into those habits. As I understand the rules to neither rugby nor soccer, I may well be mistaken.
I do know that the field was not exactly standard. We were in our drier season, when it only rains every second day or so, with strong sun in between. This means that there was only one significant mud pit on the field. The other mud spots had been 'improved', by packing them with logs and surrounding them with clay that the sun had baked solid. It is a good thing the players were built tough, as this was not a forgiving field.
The referee for the match was our paramount chief, and as ref and chief, he was appropriately wearing a shirt with 'BOSS' written across it. Both teams seemed to listen to him and his whistle. Along the boundaries were two umpires, with leafy branches to wave in place of flags. The ball they were playing with was very well worn, with the outer skin clearly peeling off in several places.
At one stage during the game, the ball was coming off field in my general direction. We'd earlier joked that we did not need to move further from the sidelines as I'd be able to defend myself from a rogue ball. I quickly discovered that there was no need to defend myself, as about six teen girls jumped between me and the ball to ensure it had no chance of injuring me. It was like I had my own personal security team!
As the sun set, the game ended with the Ubuoo team winning 2-0. People scattered back to their homes in the village or to their canoes to paddle back to the other village. I wandered home, having enjoyed sitting with friends in the shade, even if I understood nothing of the game going on before us.