A Chat with the Chairman: Sam CallaghanFeaturing a combination of strength, speed, agility and brute force, the Beijing Devils have taken on the rugby league and emerged notorious. From their headquarters at The Den, these daemons of sporting prowess have made themselves into the premiere team in the Beijing league, and have competed around Asia. We talked with Sam Callaghan, chairman of the Beijing Devils, about the prospects of the sport in China, and how far the Devils are willing to go to succeed.
What is it about the Devils that drives Beijing wild?
Well we have taken over bars in Houhai and been driven out by angry proprietors. They seemed pretty wild. Other than that we have a membership of 250 plus and are going from strength to strength, so we must be doing something right.
Why are you called “The Devils”?
It started in 1992 when the team, made up largely of foreigners, called themselves The Foreign Devils, based on some of the less endearing terms that were thrown at them from their local cousins at the time.
What is rugby?
Rugby is a game New Zealanders think they own and are obsessed with. For everyone else it’s a fun pastime. It apparently began when some guy called William got bored playing soccer and picked up the ball and ran with it. This happened at Rugby school in England, which makes the kiwis’ obsession even more bizarre.
How is rugby better than American football, Gaelic and Soccer? Please feel free to offend everyone at once.
American football goes for five hours and they wear those ridiculous pads and throw yellow flags in the air. Is it a game or a carnival? Bravo to the cheerleaders though. Bravo. What is Gaelic football? And don’t get me started on soccer. I like watching the five minute highlights where you get to appreciate the actual game for what it is, but the rolling around, faking injury, swearing and abusing referees and doing everything they can to cheat in between, drives me nuts. Rugby has 30 grown men jumping on each other and getting up close and personal with balls. Who could possibly find anything wrong with that?
How did you personally get started with this group?
Like most guys I simply googled ‘rugby in Beijing’ and found The Devils. A quick email and I was invited down to the Den
to watch some rugby and meet the guys.
How were you personally touched by your time with the group (in an emotional way)?
I think we have about 20 at the moment. All the usual rugby playing countries are represented, of course, but this year we also have representation from the likes of Mexico, Kazakhstan, Spain and Wallis and Futuna (Wikipedia that one). One of our longest serving members, Wason, is Chinese.
Who is the coach?
For the guys it’s Mr. Ker. He’s Scottish, angry and apparently quite a good player this year but nobody seems to be watching when he does anything good so it’s all hearsay. The women’s team are ably led by Ms. Ivanov and Mr. Peacoke.
Where do you practice?
Dulwich College Beijing – Legend Garden Campus.
When are practices? Are they serious with drills or more mock-games and fun?
Practice is every Tuesday and Thursday evenings during the season. It begins at 8pm but it is best to meet at The Den where we all jump on a bus to head out there. Training is certainly serious but with a measure of fun thrown into it, especially afterwards when everyone retires to The Den for some food and a drink(s).
Is this free? What does it cost?
It’s around 1000 kuai for the year for both Men and Women’s teams and this includes all your playing kit, transport to and from training/games, the coveted 50% off DEN Card as well as the occasional bar tab at The Den after victories. We also have social membership for those who don’t want to get overly physical but enjoy the after game activities. That’s 350 kuai and also comes with The Den card.
Is this a spectator sport?
Who organizes the league?
It’s a cooperation between the four teams in Beijing with a rep, this year from the Devils, as a coordinator. We get together at the start of the year and agree on a schedule. Finding places to play week in week out can be a challenge, but everyone helps each other out with various contacts to ensure the games go ahead. We also have a dedicated team of referees who lend their time on Saturdays.
Who are your nemesis teams? Why should we root for you over them?
The Shanghai Hairy Crabs. Everyone from Shanghai thinks they are better than everyone else so it’s an easy decision. They also chanted ‘best in Asia’ when they deservedly beat us in the final of The Yellow Sea Cup regional competition between the two teams and Seoul in 2008. Asia is a big place. That made us laugh.
Rugby is quite dangerous. Are you all insured? Are there loads of injuries? Do these injuries attract the ladies?
Yes there are injuries but they are very rarely serious. It’s normally just bumps and strains. All players are encouraged to ensure they have adequate insurance prior to playing just in case.
When is your next big event?
We will be holding our Spring registration evening sometime in March. That’s the opportunity for all new players and social members to join up and meet the team. Everyone is welcome. 2012 is also the clubs 20th anniversary and we are looking to hold a weekend of celebrations in April or June. Keep an eye on www.beijingdevils.com for details.
Article by Lauren Johnson