Third-year Stingers enjoys the culture of the sport he loves
“My favourite thing would be stepping on the field right before the kickoff,” said Michael Laplaine-Pereira, a hooker on the Stingers men’s rugby team. “To feel physically ready and mentally ready, to see that first ball leave the kicker and run, that’s the best feeling.”
On Sept. 25, the Stingers honoured Laplaine-Pereira with male Athlete of the Week. He said it was rewarding, not only as a personal achievement, but because it gave rugby the recognition it often misses out on because of the more popular sports. He also praised the work his teammates do to allow him to succeed on the field.
“At the end of the day, this is a team sport and we’re dependent on the others standing next to us,” Laplaine-Pereira said. “You really get a sense of how much you can accomplish because of [the team]. It feels like every highlight of my season has been [curated] by the other players. Everything I do, it’s not doable without them.”
After an impressive season of five tries in five games—the most in the league—and two game MVP honours, it’s a shame Laplaine-Pereira wasn’t able to show off his skills in the playoffs. On Oct. 19, in the fifth regular-season game against cross-town rivals McGill Redmen, Laplaine-Pereira received a red card for kicking a Redmen player in the head. He was suspended for four games, missing the remainder of the season as the Stingers went undefeated en route to a championship.
“It’s probably one of the top three most emotionally challenging moments of my life,” said Laplaine-Pereira about not being able to play in the playoffs. “After it happened, I was crying because it was so hard [to deal with]. It was a mistake. I knew it was my fault; I didn’t hide from it.”
Before the rest of the team went back onto the field after halftime of the McGill game, Laplaine-Pereira said: “We all make mistakes on the field; we see each other make mistakes. What rugby’s about, the brotherhood, it’s to not blame [anyone], but it’s to pick them up and adapt for the best [interest] of the team. What I did, it’s unacceptable, not for the rules, but for the culture.”
Head coach Craig Beemer spoke to Laplaine-Pereira during halftime and told him how, after playing hard and rough, part of the culture is that you can go grab a drink with the opponent.
“The culture behind rugby, the family, it’s not the same as in soccer,” said the 23-year-old. He also noted that rugby is less competitive than soccer, and he loves the culture behind the sport, which includes the “unspoken guidelines, the unwritten rules” Laplaine-Pereira holds close.
Laplaine-Pereira was enrolled in sports starting at a young age and has always been active. Before rugby, he played soccer for almost a decade. He said he remembers his parents being there for him and encouraging him when he was five years old, and that support hasn’t faded.
Laplaine-Pereira’s parents are originally from Portuguese colonies in Africa—his dad from Angola and his mom from Zaire, now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They moved to Canada for a better life, where Laplaine-Pereira and his brother could get a chance to continue their education.
At 14, Laplaine-Pereira injured his knee playing soccer, which put him out of play for six months. He had also just changed high schools for the third time and was going through some personal issues. Ultimately, Laplaine-Pereira took a break from playing sports for four years. He wasn’t part of a team until Cégep, when he joined the Vanier Cheetahs soccer team.
During his time at Vanier College, where he studied health science from 2012 to 2016, his soccer coach suggested he play rugby. In his final year, Laplaine-Pereira played for both teams but saw far greater success as a rugby player. He made the all-star team, was almost nominated for MVP and was deemed the most consistent player.
When he started at Concordia in the winter of 2016, Laplaine-Pereira was enrolled in biochemistry but hated it. He decided to switch into a more practical field, and ended up in environmental science. After realizing he hated that too, Laplaine-Pereira changed to software engineering last year. Despite constantly changing programs, he admitted that Concordia, especially the sports complex, is like a second home, and his teammates are like his family.
The third-year player is also a reservist and has worked as an infantry officer for the Canadian Armed Forces for the past three years. This is where he gets “down and dirty in the woods.” His job as an officer includes planning and organizing events, such as exercises for his team. His current education path would allow him to be a cyber operator for the army or could lead to a career in AI. He said he might even mix his skills as a project manager with his passion for gaming, in the hopes of working for Blizzard Entertainment, the video game developer behind World of Warcraft.
Main photo by Hannah Ewen.