An African youth living in New Zealand, who purchased tickets to last Saturday’s All Blacks vs. France test match, has been told that the tradition of ruthlessly beating a black man on the field at half-time is “just part of the game” and “a thing we do.”
Faraji Ayim, 24, watched in fear as All Blacks captain Kieran Read selected a black male from the crowd and dragged him into the middle of the field, where the French and New Zealand teams took turns to beat him within an inch of his life.
Ayim said he was afraid as he watched the beating unfold, and kindly asked the men beside him to stop cheering as the players’ boots were repeatedly planted on the face of the victim. One of the men beside him responded that it was just a tradition, and that he should not be so easily offended.
“He said if I didn’t like it, I shouldn’t come to the rugby,” said Ayim.
The incident has sparked a nationwide debate over whether it’s alright to ritualistically beat ethnic minorities at half-time, with many rugby fans expressing that they hadn’t really thought about it before now.
All Blacks fan Eric Barnes, 46, said he hadn’t even noticed the practice before people started talking about it in the media.
“I’ve been to hundreds of rugby matches, and I honestly never noticed, but now that you mention it, they do always beat a dark chap at half-time, don’t they?” he said. “I suppose it’s something you wouldn’t really notice unless you were a Negro.”
Eden Park spokeswoman Tracy Morgan said that while she was disappointed to learn that Ayim had a bad experience at the game, there was nothing that the park’s staff could do about it.
“It’s not our job to be the PC police,” said Morgan. “We’re not going to run around telling people not to chew loudly or yell racial slurs or beat innocents.”
Auckland police took a similarly relaxed approach, saying they were fine with the racial beating because it was “at the ruggers.”
“Look, I think anyone who’s ever been to a game knows that sometimes things can get a bit rowdy at the ruggers,” said Auckland police superintendent Michael Clement. “People get drunk, say nasty things, have a domestic, beat a Negro. It’s not really something we’re going to get too worked up about.”
Ayim has said he’s been “overwhelmed” by the lack of support he’s received since the traumatizing incident, but was grateful to Eden Park for inviting him to a private meeting to discuss his concerns.
When Ayim emerged from the meeting, he refused to speak to media, and a representative from the park spoke on his behalf.
“When Faraji came in here, we could see that he had a few misunderstandings about the game and our traditions,” said the representative. “But I’m pleased to report that we’ve had a good chat with him, and he feels now that he understands a lot better, don’t you, Faraji?”
Ayim nodded silently.
The representative added that, while everything had been cleared up, the park did still feel bad about Ayim’s experience, and as a consolation, had offered him tickets to several more upcoming matches.