Wednesday, July 1, 2009

If this had happened in a novel, we'd have said it was implausible

I have a story to tell you. Settle in. You might want to get a cup of tea or something else nice and soothing. Gin is a good choice.

After the second test in Wellington, the one the Brat attended, some of the French rugby team went out on the town, as you do.

The next day, Mathieu Bastareaud appeared with stitches in his face and said he'd been attacked by five big brown guys. The police, aghast, started an investigation. Bastareaud went home to France. New Zealanders were horrified that something like this would happen here -- we love our rugby and we are as flag-wavy as the next guys about it (and consider that the next guys are Australia), but it's a bit beyond it to go attacking opposition players.

Now, I thought about posting something when this happened, but had this niggly feeling that there was a bit more to it, so decided to sit on it all for a while.

Fast-forward a few days. Bastareaud goes on holiday to the Caribbean. NZ police keep the investigation going. Then the manager of Bastareaud's club, Stade Francais, went to the media and told them that Bastareaud had told him that he'd lied about being attacked. Yep, that's right -- he lied, so he wouldn't be chucked off the French team for getting really, really pissed, doing a PFO[1] and whacking his head on the bedside table, resulting in the stitches in his face.

So, a person could be forgiven for thinking that's enough WTF for one week, right?

This has turned into a clusterfuck of massive proportions. Rumours are going round France that it wasn't a bedside table Bastareaud hit his head on, but rather a fist belonging to another member of the French rugby team. The whole matter has been referred to the French rugby disciplinary board, and it's going to be interesting to see what comes out of the investigation.

No matter which way it comes out, the person this has been hardest on is Bastareaud himself -- not only did he get injured (even if it's still not clear how), he lied to police in New Zealand about what happened, may be part of a coverup of appalling behaviour on other players' parts, and is currently in a psychiatric ward after apparently cracking up under the strain and attempting suicide.

The poor bastard. I genuinely wish him well and hope he feels better soon -- this is not a good state for anybody to be in.

But wait, there's more!

For an extra dose of WTF, the French government has apologised for Bastareaud's behaviour. Which is cool. Unutterably cool. Seriously, seriously cool. And marks a sea-change in the way the French government treats appalling acts of awfulness committed by its citizens in other countries.

See, I am old enough to remember the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, for which the French government has not yet apologised.

I'm sure there's more to come out of this whole sorry mess. Let's hope it includes Bastareaud's full recovery. Even if his international rugby career is effectively over, he does deserve that.

[1] Pissed, Fall Over

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