Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why We Need to Just Support the Boys (and Girls)

Why We Need to Just Support the Boys (and Girls)

For "Off the Wall" - Fiji Times 2nd February, 2011

I remember the euphoria in our country in 2005 when we won the Rugby 7’s World Cup and our joy in 2007 at how our Flying Fijians grew and spread their wings in the build up to and during the Rugby 15s World Cup. In December, 2007 on my way to a World Council of Churches meeting in South Africa, the immigration officer at the airport stopped me and on checking my passport asked me where Fiji was. My response that we were in the South Pacific was not as interesting to her as the fact that we were the team that almost beat them in the Quarter-Finals of the World Cup. “Oh that Fiji! Welcome to South Africa!”

It might seem strange for a minister of religion to be writing about rugby but this is our national sport (or at least one of them) and I love the game. A very brief spell as a lock forward in the International School First XV in the late 1980s is my claim to the sport. Even though my son is more interested in basketball and swimming, my hope is that one day he might lace up his boots and play rugby – even if only during sports at school.

Of course the minister who is in the best place to discuss rugby, Rev. Rinakama was instrumental in the 2007 Flying Fijian campaign. It was unfortunate that he was made to choose between a calling in the circuit (parish) and being perhaps the most influential minister in Fiji by molding our 15s team as its national coach. I say this because I still remember Waisale Serevi’s testimony to millions of viewers after Fiji won the 2005 7’s World Cup.

Last weekend I watched an interview with one of my favourite Fiji rugby players, Setareki Tawake. I could not agree with him more in his call for the people of Fiji to just come out and support the Fiji Team.

All our national representatives, in sport or any field know that the aspirations of an entire nation rest on their success or failure. Accepting that responsibility comes with wearing the national colours. “You are representing the vanua and people of Fiji,” they are told when they present their i-tatau to the head of state. It is not something to take lightly. Often they are reminded of this in the locker rooms before the game or competition.

So where is our support for our national sports representatives in the midst of drama and intrigue in sports administration? When we meet a national rep or even a former national rep, in whatever sport, how many of us thank them for making us proud or doing their best.

I remember crowds at the airport when we win tournaments, series and cups. I also remember empty arrival halls when teams have not made it. I guess we are just fickle in our support.

It is easy to support the winning team, not so easy to support a losing one.

I remember my younger days, when pastoral visitations did not limit the number of test matches or 7’s tournaments I watched. Not having a Fiji rugby jersey or t-shirt to wear, a white t-shirt would have to do. Sitting or standing on the embankment at the National Stadium, one ear glued to the portable transistor to listen to the commentary, I would cheer for our teams until my voice gave out. This continues in my home with my family constantly having to remind me that my shouting at the television will not affect the outcome of the game. As an advocate of the power of prayer and positive thoughts, I disagree.

The point is, let’s support our men and women who represent us and the nation we live in - whatever the sport or event; whatever the outcome. They do what we cannot do. They stand for us. They play for us. They put their bodies on the line for us.

The least we can do is tell them that we appreciate and support them.

To our rugby players (7’s, 15’s, League – even touch), footballers, net and basketballers, badminton and tennis players, chess players, golfers, athletes to the Pacific Gamers, sailors of the Uto Ni Yalo and all who hold high the Fiji flag on the track, field and court – we are with you.

This weekend our 7’s team plays in Wellington; our 15’s Warriors take on the Warratahs; and local tournaments and the buildup for the Netball World Cup continue. Let’s pray for them, cheer for them and regardless of the outcome, be proud of the best we have.

A hero is a person who demonstrates courage and strength, often overcoming adversity. Let’s stand by our heroes. Let’s cheer them on in the arena. Let us bind their wounds when they are defeated. Afterall, they play for us.

Rev. J.S. Bhagwan is the Circuit Minister of Dudley Methodist Circuit –Suva. This article is the sole opinion of Rev. J.S. Bhagwan and not that of the newspaper or any organisation that Rev. Bhagwan is associated with. Email:

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