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Bruises fade, friendships last

Service engineer Risto Peltomäki has played rugby on three continents. In his opinion, rugby is always a gentleman’s game regardless of national borders or cultural differences.

”In a physical sport, on the pitch things can get heated and boil over, but fellow players and referees are treated with respect. The referee is the king of the game. After the match, bruises fade and rugby players are good friends off the pitch.”

Peltomäki, who previously played hockey and football, got to know rugby during his student exchange year in the United States.

“A South African student friend at Tennessee Tech encouraged me to go along with him to training. I immediately became hooked on this all-round sport, where everyone gets to do everything.  Run with the oval-shaped ball, tackle, pass. Attack and defend.”

When he came back to his hometown in Finland, Peltomäki continued playing at the local Pori Rugby Club, which has teams for men and women. Both teams are aiming to reach the top of Finnish rugby.  

When Peltomäki left for a yearlong secondment to Indonesia in summer 2015, an essential part of the preparations for his trip included finding out about the rugby clubs in the country.

“Luckily for me, it turned out that one of the active rugby players came from the town I was going to live in, Lippo Cikarang. I got a ride to training with him.”

In Indonesia, his passion for rugby was really put to the test, since the drive to Tuesday training in Jakarta took two hours. After practice, showering, eating, and the journey home, he more or less went straight to bed. Matches were played on Saturdays so Peltomäki didn’t have time to get bored at the weekends either.

“Most of the players had moved to Indonesia for work, like me. We had people from all walks of life, from lawyer to gym equipment salesman, from cellphone manufacturing to printing. When we were playing, all job titles were forgotten.“

Muscular Peltomäki is himself built like a modern-day Viking, but he visibly lights up when recommending rugby to everybody.

“We had very different kinds of players in our Indonesian team. A pint-sized person who knows how to tackle can bundle even a huge opponent to the ground in the wink of an eye. All you need are rugby cleats, mouth guards, and insurance.”

Rugby Union
Roots: Rugby School, England
Players: 15 against 15
Rugby pitch: 70 m x 150 m
Status: The variant Rugby Sevens was included in the 2016 Rio Olympics

TEXT: TANJA HOVI PHOTO: ANSSI KOSKINEN