The Sport That United a Country THE 1995 RUGBY WORLD CUP
In early November, the 2019 Rugby World Cup will wrap up in Japan. The international competition brings out world-class athletes and entertainment. While matches are certainly intense, respect for the competition and for referees is a core tenet of rugby culture. After going head-to-head with an opponent, you’ll still shake hands, and maybe have a beer together, at the end of a match. This principle was on full display nearly 25 years ago at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final in South Africa. The South African Springboks were up against the New Zealand All Blacks, and a number of factors made this an exceptional match. Just a few years earlier in 1991, apartheid legislation had been repealed in South Africa. The policy had left a deep cut, and the country still had a long journey toward healing and reparation. Nelson Mandela, who had been elected in 1994, was set on championing a “rainbow nation” in this new post-apartheid era.
game. It was controversial because of its connection to the architects of apartheid, but Mandela saw rugby’s potential as a symbol of hope and unity for a country that desperately needed it. Springboks captain Francois Pienaar (played by Matt Damon in “Invictus,” the film adaptation of this event) thought the president’s support of the team was a brilliant act. “During those six weeks, what happened in this country was incredible,” Pienaar said. Just before the final game that would decide the 1995 World Cup winners, Mandela sported a Springboks jersey and stood behind the team. Through a hard-fought match, South Africa came out on top, and, after receiving the trophy from President Mandela, Pienaar explained the atmosphere of the event: “When the final whistle blew, this country changed forever.” If the 1995 World Cup was any indication, the camaraderie inherent to rugby can transcend all kinds of barriers. Meet a fellow rugby player or fan in any part of the world, and you’ll likely forge an instant kinship. In 2021, you can look forward to cheering on the women’s teams during the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
Rugby started in England in the late 1800s, and colonizers took it to South Africa, where South Africans of every color embraced the
Legend of the Pirate Queen CHING SHIH: HISTORY’S MOST SUCCESSFUL PIRATE
From Blackbeard to Jack Sparrow, pop culture teems with pirates who frequented the ports of the Caribbean. And while these pirates are well-known for their (sometimes fictional) accomplishments, the most successful pirate in history terrorized the seas of China instead. Her name was Ching Shih. Ching Shih, who was born Shih Yang, was working in a Cantonese brothel when she met the pirate Zheng Yi. He came from a long family of notorious pirates and was impressed by Ching Shih’s cunning. They married in 1801 and built a pirate empire known as the Red Flag Fleet. When Zheng Yi passed away suddenly in 1807, Ching Shih strategically maneuvered her way into leadership, taking control of over 60,000 pirates. Historians describe Ching Shih as a brilliant military strategist, a skilled businesswoman, and a harsh disciplinarian. After taking control of the fleet, Ching Shih implemented a strict code of conduct. The code included rules for distributing booty, protecting female captives, and beheading anyone who disobeyed Ching Shih. Under her rule, the bloody crimes of piracy became a profitable business. The Red Flag Fleet would eventually clash with the British Empire, the Portuguese Empire, and the Qing dynasty of China, but no one could topple the pirate queen.
office of a local governor-general, completely unarmed, and requested full pardons and government jobs for her entire crew— along with permission to keep all their stolen goods. In exchange, she promised to give up piracy for good. Thankful to be free of the Red Flag Fleet, the Chinese government agreed to her terms. Ching Shih’s second husband was even made an officer in the Chinese navy. Ching Shih returned to Canton with her vast wealth and spent the next 34 years living a life of comfort with her family and running a gambling den. In 1844, the legendary pirate queen passed away of old age at 69, a rare feat for pirates of her era.
After almost a decade of pillaging the high seas, Ching Shih decided piracy wasn’t the best retirement plan. In 1810, she walked into the
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