Every so often in Scottish Rugby, a player comes along who can change the game. In the case of Panashe Muzambe, this potential is not limited to what she does on the pitch, but encompasses her ability to be a force for good in a sport that still tends to exist in, and appeal to, an altogether narrow part of society.
Muzambe, who was born and raised in Zimbabwe then moved to Edinburgh as a young teenager, is the first Black woman to play for Scotland. She considers it both an honor and a responsibility. “This is something that is much bigger than me,” explains the 24-year-old, who qualifies through residency to represent her adopted country. “Me being on that stage, being on television, singing the national anthem as a Black woman who plays Rugby for Scotland is a big deal. “There are other Black and brown kids in the country who might not identify with Rugby, but hopefully when they see me, they do.
“The pathway to get into Rugby is completely different for Black players. Me being here will help lift the profile of Rugby for other Black and brown kids around the country and help them understand that nothing is too big for them. It’s something I really value, take pride in and respect. I’m trying to set a good example. It’s amazing to be part of this journey, because I know a lot of kids will look at this and hopefully be inspired.”
“This is something that is much bigger than me.”
Zimbabwe was deep in political and social crisis when the Muzambe family took their leave. Panashe’s mother came to Scotland first — she and brother Munashe didn’t see her for five years until they too arrived, in the midst of a Scottish winter.
The weather and the local dialect took some getting used to, and though the vast majority of people were welcoming, Muzambe was served some cutting reminders of her “otherness”. “I remember walking home from school [St Augustine’s High] one day. I was crossing the road and this guy shouts, ‘Oi, go back to your own country’. When that happens all you can think is, ‘What have I done to you? I’m just crossing a road, just trying to exist.’ It makes you start questioning yourself. Even now, sometimes you walk into a shop and get followed [by security]. You wonder, ‘Would this happen to my white friends? Would they walk in and be followed around as if they are trying to nick something?’”
“I can’t speak for every Black person or every young Black woman in this country because we all face different things, but if you were to walk in my shoes, you would realize that your experiences are completely different to mine.” Muzambe has enjoyed the conversations that have sprung from the Black Lives Matter movement, but hopes it will drive real change, not just in terms of egregious injustice but more indirect forms of prejudice that can be equally insidious. “Most people look at what’s happening in America where it’s things that you can see — a Black man being killed on the street. But for a lot of people, including me, it tends to be subtle racism, the small things, the nuanced things that people say or do. Those things are really hard to challenge because you don’t have that physical proof, but you’re constantly thinking about it.
“It hurts a lot because you can’t do anything about it: you have to kind of live through it.
“Black Lives Matter can help make important changes. A few of the girls [teammates] have messaged me about it and one of them is raising money for BLM. Things like that make you realize that my teammates value the Black person in me, and being open about it means we are staying true to the uncomfortable conversations that people sometimes try to shy away from. I just hope it doesn’t become a social media thing. People posting black squares is great, but what happens two days, two weeks, two years after that? It’s the practical things you do afterwards, the action you take, that are important.”
When Rugby returns, Muzambe plans to discuss taking a knee with her Watsonians, Edinburgh University and Scotland colleagues. Prior to starting a sport and exercise science degree at Napier, her game was basketball, but, encouraged by former Scotland international Sarah Quick, she showed immediate aptitude with an oval ball and won her first cap at Twickenham last year, and has since transitioned from back row to front. Some of the nuts and bolts of prop play are still coming together, but coaches speak highly of her communication skills and leadership, a trait she has honed as a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament and Sportscotland Young People’s Sport Panel. “Giving back is important to me, because I know there are so many people who have done so many things for me to get to the position I’m in. Moving here, I’d never have dreamt in a million years that I would win a Scotland Rugby cap, and now I want to help create opportunity for others.”
“Posting black squares is great, but … it’s the practical things you do afterwards … that are important.”
Right now, Philip Doyle’s charges should be preparing for a September tournament that was to be their last chance of securing a spot at the 2021 World Cup. The pandemic inevitably forced a postponement, putting the lid on a strange year for Scotland Women. Their Six Nations campaign saw the match against England postponed because of extreme weather then played behind closed doors at Murrayfield on a Monday afternoon, before the game away to Italy was called off due to the first Covid-19 outbreak in the north of that country. The Scotstoun fixture against France then bit the dust when one of the Scots tested positive for coronavirus. “We like to refer to it as character-building,” smiles Muzambe. “You couldn’t write the things that happened to us. It was bizarre. But the way we were able to get knocked down and bounce back each time, that showed how resilient the team is, how passionate everyone is and how we value and care for each other. That’s all come through in lockdown, too.”
Muzambe is still waiting for clarity on what form the second year of her Masters in Education will take, and is yet to get back to her day job as a sports coach and leisure assistant with Edinburgh Leisure. These quieter months have, however, offered her the chance to reflect on how far she has come so quickly. “Before now, I’ve never really had time to look back or sit down and vocalize my thoughts about the process I’ve gone through. Being able to do that, I realize how fortunate I am and how blessed I’ve been.
“Things like this don’t just happen to ordinary people. It’s been a very swift process, and it’s been good to take a step back and remind myself how privileged I am and be thankful for that. This whole thing is what dreams are made of.”
Bobby’s time had almost come.
Four farmers holding large wooden boards had lined up to herd the pig from his sty onto a trailer that would take him to the abattoir. However, the plucky beast, born 14 months ago on an organic farm in northern Germany, appeared to sense his fate, and decided it was not for him. “He smashed right through the boards and ran off,” farmer Hermann Poppen told The Times. “Because he’s relatively big and very strong we just couldn’t hold him.” The truck left.
Bobby, a rare breed known as the Angeln Saddleback, had won a reprieve. But it was only temporary. A few days later the trailer was back. “We tried three times over a period of four weeks to get him on it,” said Mr Poppen. “But he’s got enormous power in his snout. He just hooked himself under a board, lifted it up and stormed off and that was that.”
By then, Bobby had already eaten his way to safety. Weighing in at over 400 pounds, he had become too big to fit into the abattoir’s dehairing machine. He could have been driven to a bigger slaughterhouse, but they are all much further away and there was still the small matter of getting him onto the trailer.
By then, Bobby had already eaten his way to safety.
So the farm, Bioland Hof Sonnenschein, decided to turn him into an Instagram star in a bid to attract sponsors to cover his prodigious feed bill of $117 a month for grass and cereals. Now named Count Bobby of Sonnenschein, the black pig with light patches and an affable demeanor has amassed 3,160 followers and has won a number of sponsors willing to fund his pension.
He appears to be enjoying his retirement, which isn’t surprising because all he has to do is roll around in the mud and wait for the next TV crew to arrive. But nothing, not even his growing fame, is fazing him. “He’s totally chilled,” said Mr Poppen. “Anyone can approach him. We have little children who go up to him and he’s relaxed.”
The black pig with light patches and an affable demeanor has amassed 3,160 followers.
The farm has been busily uploading photos and video clips of the animal, including one in which he tries to eat a football and then phlegmatically nudges it away. “He’s so cute,” said Mr Poppen’s wife, Nina. “He’s a particularly handsome guy with a well-shaped head and sweet eyes.” She has been using him as a presenter to show the farm to his followers. Last week he introduced them to his mother Berta and a crop of piglets.
Despite his growing fame, Bobby has some way to go to rival the world’s leading “petfluencers” such as Jiffpom, a Pomeranian dog that has amassed 10.5 million followers on Instagram by posing in a variety of costumes.
But he isn’t the type to care.