Pascal Derrien

5 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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Rugby, Vanguard, Affinity Diasporas & The Big Prize

The vanguard is the leading part of an advancing military formation. It has a number of functions including securing ground in advance of the main force. Now if we drop the military aspect of the definition we can probably and very often apply this to a lot of situations.  

On this side of the globe and more precisely in Ireland the countdown towards the World Rugby Cup 2015 kicking off on the 18th of Sept has begun and I must say personally I will follow with excitement and anxiety the progress of the French and Irish teams. I like the team effort, the discipline and the creativity that the game generates. Anything from lone ranger exploits to squad moments of sheer brilliance and the emergence of standout individual player such as Simon Zebo. 

But who is Simon Zebo you may ask? His bio says he was born on March 16th 1990 in Ireland , His father, Arthur, was an 800-metre runner of Olympic standard in his native France and only missed out on the Montreal Games of 1976 because of a broken leg. Simon graduated from Presentation Brothers College before starting his professional career at age 20. He joined Ireland's national team in 2012, after playing for the U20 team in 2010. Simon’s dad is a proud black man while his mum is originally from Cork. 

Coming from a French/Irish family too we will be following very closely our favourite player Simon, for my young son he is really the closest role model he can identify himself with. If you are not familiar with the sport and the Irish Rugby team, Simon Zebo is traditionally playing at the back. Despite his position on the pitch, he is clearly one of the new sports field leader and is in the process of becoming an iconic Irish figure. Besides sport and while he has never asked to become the poster boy for any cause he is probably illustrating some fundamentals shifts and major changes coming on our little island. De facto he is leading an improbable vanguard. 

Irish And French, agile but fragile the new figure of Irish sport was rising fast two years ago and was promised to new heights but that got stopped suddenly due a broken foot injury,  an injury indeed who is very similar to the accident his dad had in the past. Fond of metaphors as I am I guess maybe it was too early maybe it was not the time maybe we were not ready for him. The novelty in terms of attitude , the positivity and most probably a slightly different approach on life and sport provoked some frictions and raised some eyebrows. His perceived exuberance was annoying the sporting establishment. 

While not unusual, I would say it is rare for a dual-nationality chap, mixed race individual and coloured man to reach this level of notoriety so fast so quickly in Irish sport, Simon is so Irish and is also so different to what we have celebrated to date in Irish Rugby. So no wonder he faced obstacles, but he made some efforts to adjust and without alienating his core values he bounced back. 

You see in Ireland the society by and large is very often in denial and suffers from acute apathy towards change. The choice is simple though, there is a wave of Simon Zebos out there, an exciting new generation gently growing up in our schools today. And by gosh this is too big to be ignored, in primary and secondary schools thousands of little Simon Zebos born In Ireland or not with origins from India, Middle East, Eastern Europe, Spain, Nigeria, China, Ghana or South America are learning to become the driving force of the Irish future. 

I know you may think I am bias but this is no propaganda, if you don’t believe me make the effort to set a foot on any average primary school in Dublin today. There will be no need for subtitles in so far as the situation is very obvious , and if you happen to speak to any principal he will probably mention the 35 to 40 different nationalities composing the makeup of its pupils. 

Ireland has won the big prize but is somewhat failing to claim the rewards. Despite what far right parties are keen to demonize, what a magic kaleidoscope will we have contributing to the society economically,politically, religiously and philosophically. If you have not seen or realized it yet, take a moment and observe…. 

However there is a caveat here , you will have to make an effort because except some sporadic articles in the written press when was the last time you saw a foreign national or a member of any ethnic minority on TV, when was the last radio interview ? Yep I know except some rare apparitions they are somewhat invisible, their seats are as empty as the binary narrative of the establishment. Officials actively talk about the delicate situation of 55.000 Irish illegals in the US while failing to acknowledge the 20 000 undocumented in Ireland, ministers celebrate with great eloquence the humanism and role played by the Irish vessel ‘’LÉ Eithne ‘’ on its migrants rescue mission in the Mediterranean sea while Anna Kern, the asylum seeker from Ukraine who got 575 points in her Leaving Cert, falls outside the scheme on access to third level education. 

So we got to try harder Ireland right? We ought to transform the formidable energy into something positive right? We all play the same game, aren’t we all in the same team? I am told the rugby anthem says ‘’ shoulder to shoulder together standing tall’’….. 

It is time to tackle the issue and accept there is no substitute to reality. The new Irish are clearly wearing the jersey, no reason why they should remain an hidden impact actually most of them have no intent to stay 



PS2: if you manage to get hold of a French Rugby Jersey this is the quote flocked inside the sporting apparel

«Les rubans de la mémoire sont le centre de nos origines et le départ de toutes les espérances.Chaque individu a une expérience unique qui s'inscrit dans une communauté, l'histoire même de ces communautés est la mémoire d'une nation»


Irish Press In General



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Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #4

Still playing Gert at club level with Munster and Ireland but not always picked by the coach :-)

Gert Scholtz

5 years ago #3

Interesting post Pascal Derrien. Is Zebo still playing? I recall the run-up to the WC last year and his name but have not been following Irish Rugby lately.

Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #2

ah thank you Lisa Gallagher :-)

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #1

Very interesting read Pascal Derrien. I learn something new from you every time I read one of your posts!

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