Adams the real treasure of Eldorado

The Irish have found a firm friend in South Africa, says Tim Glover
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Marlon Adams wears an Irish team jersey, drinks Guinness, talks rugby and has learnt the words to the new green anthem, Ireland's Call. "I sing it from the heart," Adams said. "I feel I'm part of the squad. They make me feel welcome."

Adams is one of a host of South African rugby officials who volunteered their services for the World Cup. An executive member of the Transvaal RU, he put his name down to be a baggage master or liaison officer. "I was eager to work for any team in any capacity," he said. He got the job of assistant baggage master to Ireland. "Black people have previously been denied such opportunities," Adams said.

A coloured who was born in Cape Town, he moved to Johannesburg - "anybody who wants a good job goes to Johannesburg" - 18 years ago and is the chairman of Eldorado RFC from a township of 250,000 people. "Despite its name, it is a sub-economic area with high unemployment, violence and crime." Eldorado is one of only two black clubs in the Transvaal RU.

"We are rugby people," Adams said. "We have been playing rugby for over 100 years and the whites never thought we'd get organised. We are as good as anybody, if not better." Three years ago, when the South African Rugby Board merged with the South African Rugby Union, Eldorado joined the previously all-white Transvaal Union.

In its first season in the Transvaal President's League Eldorado's record was: played 20, lost 20. "We recruited five white players and then our record was played 20, won 16," Adams said. "This year we lost three of the five whites because we don't have the funds to reimburse them. We've had to start all over and we've managed to get some good black players from Cape Town. I've written to more than 20 companies asking for sponsorship and not one has replied. Our income comes from selling beer and hot dogs."

Eldorado runs four teams and Adams is the stand-off for the thirds. "We are coached by a white Afrikaner and we need some white forwards to compete against these big Afrikaners. We always used to get beaten up. We don't play dirty. We have a natural flair and we run the ball all the time. Everybody loves to play against us and we have a choir that sings from beginning to end. As a black team we would be a dream to market."

John Robbie, the former Ireland scrum-half who is a broadcaster here, has promised to air Eldorado's grievances. "We have no complaints about the Transvaal Union," Adams said. "They have given us enormous help."

Meanwhile Adams is enjoying the World Cup as a requisitioned Irishman. "They're fantastic to work for. There have been complaints from other baggage masters about the treatment they receive but the Irish are a lot of fun."

The highlight so far for Adams was when he was caught on camera cheering an Ireland try in the victory over Japan in Bloemfontein. "It was the experience of a lifetime," he said. The lowlight was Bloemfontein itself. "I was the only black man in a bar and I felt out of place. It was uncomfortable. If you're not from Bloemfontein, don't go to Bloemfontein."