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Samoan Rugby Players Voluntarily Cover Tattoos in Japan

Their hearts may be on their sleeves, but their tattoos are under them. While participating in the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the manager of Samoa’s men’s national rugby team required his players to don special sleeves to cover their tattoos. The edict complied with an advisory statement by World Rugby, issued as part of the sport’s cultural awareness program. Manager Va'elua Aloi Alesana said, “We have to respect the culture of the land we are in wherever we go. We have our own culture as well, but we are not in Samoa now.”

When asked to elaborate, Alesana clarified his stance further:

There are some training venues that have allowed us to show our tattoos and some places where we can't, and for those places, we've been given “skins” to wear to cover our tattoos. The extra skins are only for when we go to the pools though. At the training we can wear our normal clothes.

It might not have been an easy choice for the players to follow, because tattoos are a revered aspect of Pacific Islander culture. But in Japan, they are often associated with the Japanese organized crime syndicates known as yakuza.

In the run up to the tournament, coach Steve Jackson consulted Japanese cultural experts to ensure players respect and appreciate the local culture. As a result, team captain Jack Lam was on board. Lam said, “It's quite normal in our culture. But we are respectful and mindful to what the Japanese way is. We will be making sure that what we are showing will be OK.”

Potential Preaching Angles: Respect for others means understanding your own culture and being willing to adjust when you visit other places. The call of Christian discipleship involves the practice of laying down our own preferences for the sake of others.

Source: Hardik Vyas, “Rugby: Tattooed Samoans don skin suits to avoid offending Japanese hosts” Reuters (9-17-19)

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