By Mr. Bryan Gatchell (IMCOM)April 19, 2013
ANSBACH, Germany -- It was a bright, cold afternoon April 13 at Storck Barracks near Illesheim. The wind blew across the Rugby pitch, abated by neither tree nor buildings. During the first half of a friendly match between the Black n Blue out of Storck Barracks and a newly formed team from Würzburg, the wind blew against the Black n Blue. This presented the Storck Barracks team with seemingly little difficulty as they were up on the Würzburg team 46-0 at the half.
The Black n Blue Rugby team has been a part of Storck Barracks since 1981, though the team recently returned from a hiatus.
Members consist primarily of U.S. Army Soldiers, which, according to Black n Blue teammates, promotes camaraderie.
"A lot of these guys that work together, they see each other every day, they already know each other," said Zachary Patience, Black n Blue member for three years.
For other players, the bond runs deeper than only being coworkers.
"You could be a complete stranger and know that he's a Soldier too, and you already have that connection -- that bond -- before you start playing," said Brook Doll, Soldier with 3rd Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, and Black n Blue team member.
This camaraderie's longevity makes this club unique. According to Sam Willing, the club's operations assistant and treasurer, the group is the longest-running military rugby club in Europe.
"It's something we pride ourselves on," said Willing.
"When you say 'Black n Blue Illesheim,' most people in military rugby know what you're talking about," said Dave McNaughton, the club's manager.
Willing spoke on the popularity of the sport in Germany.
"It's really starting to pick up in Germany," he said. "Right now, there are maybe between 10 and 15 teams in Bayern itself, and most of those came out in the last two or three years."
The team plays Rugby Union, which is a form of rugby requiring of the teams 15 players on the pitch. Rugby is not the best known contact sport in the United States, being eclipsed in popularity by its close cousin American football. Both American football and rugby feature two groups of players seeking to place a ball at either end of the field or kick it between two posts at either end of the field. In rugby, however, there are no forward passes, no timeouts and no padding.
"Rugby, to me, is more technical than any other American sport," said Tony Cervizzi, who has been with the club since 1994.
Cervizzi attributes his staying power with the club to his love for the sport, which he felt immediately upon joining.
"I was a single guy looking for something to do to get me out of the barracks," said Cervizzi. "Some guys told me about the team. I had never played before, and I thought that I'd give it a shot. I played football in high school, so this was the closest thing to it that I could attempt. And the first game I loved it."
Other players enjoy the sportsmanship as well.
"On the field, the guy across from you is your enemy, but once the game is over, you go and have a beer with them," said Jose Gonzales, a player with the team and a Soldier with 3-159th.
During the second half and conclusion of the match, Black n Blue demonstrated this principle. The Army team did not allow a single point from the Würzburg team and racked the score in their favor to 101-0, a club record. After this, however, they invited the Würzburg team up to their clubhouse for drinks and conversation.
According to Cervizzi, this sportsmanship has been a boon for international relations.
"We're an ambassadorship for the sport," said Cervizzi. "In our league, there are a lot of ex-pats from other countries -- England, Ireland, New Zealand. It's not just the Germans [and Europeans] we're making contact with and connections with, it's [worldwide international] partners. It's good for us."
The walls of their clubhouse attest to this. The club has visited Amsterdam several times for a sevens competition. They also have a portrait featuring them with one of the top Kenyan rugby teams.
Willing encourages participation both as spectator and team member.
"We just come out and enjoy ourselves every week," said Willing. "It's a good spectator sport, it's a great player sport, and it's a sport anyone can play. It doesn't matter if you're a short, fat guy or a big, tall skinny guy. Anyone can play Rugby."
To learn more about the team, visit www.facebook.com/BlacknBlueRugby.