Canadian rugby team volunteers in typhoon-struck Japan following cancellation of World Cup match


Typhoon Hagibis brought Team Canada’s World Cup campaign to an early finish, but the kindhearted athletes still had one more thing to do in Japan.

The 2019 Rugby World Cup matches are taking place at a dozen venues across Japan, and the smallest of the bunch is Iwate Prefecture’s Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium. The stadium has a capacity of just over 16,000 spectators, while the town of Kamaishi itself only has about 34,000 residents.

Nonetheless, a lot of fans had been looking forward to the match between Canada and Namibia that was scheduled for October 13. Unfortunately, though, in addition to the two teams there was a third guest heading Kamaishi’s way, as the powerful Typhoon Hagibis barreled through east Japan this weekend.

On Saturday night, heavy rains caused landslides and flooding in the mountains near Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, and evacuation orders were issued for parts of the nearby community. After much debate on Sunday morning the decision was made to cancel the match, and with both Canada and Namibia already sitting at three losses and no wins in their highly competitive Pool B (which includes powerhouses New Zealand and South Africa), the match will not be rescheduled. That decision ended Canada’s World Cup campaign, and since the team wasn’t spending time on the pitch, they decided to pitch in and help Kamaishi recover from the effects of the typhoon.

Grabbing shovels and brushes, the Canadian rugby team turned into a team of Canadian volunteers, as they cleared away mud and other debris that had been swept in by the storm and were clogging the city’s streets. While this would be a touching gesture under any circumstances, it had a special significance because of Kamaishi’s recent history.

Remember how the stadium is called Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium? The “Recovery” part of the name comes from the venue’s construction being part of the revitalization projects following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan’s Tohoku region, of which Iwate is a part, and “Memorial” is in remembrance of the more than 1,200 Kamaishi residents who lost their lives on that tragic day eight years ago.

“We heard stories about what happened here eight years ago, and to be here for another natural disaster, we felt that we had to come out. It is the least we could do,” said Team Canada member Andrew Coe. Thankfully, Typhoon Hagibis didn’t cause damage anywhere near as severe as what the town suffered in 2011, but local residents were still deeply appreciative for the help, with messages of thanks coming from the official Twitter account of Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium and others.

Meanwhile, the Namibian team set up a fan appreciation event in Iwate’s Miyako City, where the team had been staying, signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans in hopes of giving them some extra cheer as they deal with the aftermath of the storm.

With the cancelled match being officially recognized as a draw, both Canada and Namibia head home from the World Cup with 0-3-1 records for the contest, but even though they didn’t achieve a single on-field victory between them, somehow we suspect both teams earned a lot of new fans during their time in Japan.

Sources: Rugby Canada, World Rugby, Rugby World Cup 2019, Daily Sports via Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter/@kama_stadium
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