Hamish Allen has been captain of The Minotaurs since April 2008 when his wife pointed out that he had got a bit fat since they moved to Dubai and should probably take some more exercise. An ex-military man, the suggestion that he might be ‘letting himself go’ went down badly and as a result he gathered his closest friends and suggested they form a team that could one day play in the Dubai Sevens’ Local Social tournament. Most of them were keen considering it would give them an excuse to be out of the house one night a week. They envisioned hearty and bracing exercise followed by pints in the pub. After a couple of training sessions in which they sweated more than they thought physically possible and a few vomited on the grass, they realised there really wasn’t a pub nearby in which they could turn up looking as they did without the police being called. Hamish’s team numbers dwindled.
This didn’t thwart Hamish though, nor his vice-captain Will, a sinewy and enthusiastic scrum-half who runs marathons for fun in his spare time. They managed to cobble together a few regulars with tenuous links to the original team and on (most) Monday nights are spotted punishing themselves in Safa Park and trying to avoid a punch-up with a belligerent French team. Will’s knowledge of French sledging isn’t great but he knows that the word ‘mère’ coupled with some gyrating body movements usually gets the message across.
The Minotaurs have had the odd success, including winning the Bowl in a local tournament. No one mentions that it was down to a clerical error and the team they should have played was sent home by mistake. That would just be churlish. They pride themselves on the fact that they always play with their local line-up and don’t bring in a ringer like their least favourite team Beach Bar Buffoons, who regularly present an ex-under 21 champion at the last minute who just happens to be visiting. However, most of The Minotaurs really should be playing in the Vets tournament and they are forced to include a chubby guy called Gary on the team as both Hamish and Will are too frightened of his pushy wife to say no. She often turns up to practice with sandwiches dragging two reluctant children who repeatedly ask why daddy is sitting on the bench.
This year, Hamish is feeling optimistic. Despite one fractured ankle, a torn cruciate ligament and a wife threatening divorce, he has managed to form a team. Their group looks manageable; they will clearly be thrashed by the Dubaiboks but the Badger Beaters look giddy and they haven’t even heard of the other team. Deep down Hamish knows exactly what will happen. They’ll be so excited to get through to the next round that everyone will get completely hosed that night and their only try will be thwarted at the last minute by their player running headlong into the post.