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Fijians away from Fiji

Elenoa Baselala In Brisbane, Australia
Friday, November 24, 2017

AS Fiji celebrated its third pool match win at the GIO Stadium in Canberra, a scuffle broke out in the stands.

A group of former Fiji residents of Indian descent had taken the ugly exchange of words earlier with Italian fans during the match into their own hands.


The match against Italy can also be remembered as one which had Fiji Bati and Italian players losing their tempers more than once and breaking the rules of engagement in rugby league.

The intensity of that field battle flowed into the stands.

Security officers had separated the two group during the match but it seemed the Fijians only waited for the final whistle before going for the Italians.

It started off after slur words too many against Fijians and then more when Jarryd Hayne was sent off the field.

An iTaukei man stood up and challenged the Italians for a match outside the stadium.

The iTaukei men backed up the Fijians of Indian descent when they took matters into their own hands at the final whistle.

Such is the passion for Fiji and the Fiji Bati with the Fijian supporters.

And that is one thing that has been driving the Vodafone Fiji Bati team — the passion and the support shown by its fans.

When former NZ Kiwi player, Benji Marshall posted on social media his professional opinion that the Fijians would not be much of an opposition to NZ and that the latter should qualify for the semi-finals comfortably, he was surprised with the anger shown by Fijian fans towards him.

He posted on Facebook after the final: "Well played Fiji on a massive win over the Kiwis. Played unbelievably well and deserved the victory. This world cup has shown how much passion the fans have for their countries and how much the international game has grown.

"Also congrats to Tonga on making the other WC semi-final. All the best to both teams for the rest of the tournament Will always support the Kiwis through the ups and downs. Just thought I'd add to this post after realising some people were offended by some comments I made about the Fijian team not being up to the Kiwis level. I meant that with no disrespect and obviously I was wrong because Fiji kicked our a##$ . I am sorry if anyone took offence to that because I love the passion and pride and humility the Fijians always display. I was just trying to back my country publicly as I am sure you all back yours. But def could have thought more about what I said. My bad yeah."

Fijian fans will do almost anything to show their support for Fiji.

Though we were outnumbered, the cheering by the Fijian fans was louder than the Kiwis throughout that game.

Fijians had come from all over New Zealand to watch that game.

Yours truly was reminded of the transport back in the The Daily Post days when The Fiji Times team was offered a lift to the grandstand.

The group had driven five hours from Hastings to watch the game with their blankets, pillows and of course their white (former) biscuit bucket containing the murky drink.

As full as it was already, we still managed to squeeze the 13 of us in the 10 seater van, which had seen its good days and had a one way of opening the door-only from outside.

Rattling down one the hills of Wellington we went. Chanting go Fiji go! with absolutely no idea whether we were going the right direction as we were all first-timers to the city.

The tau from Nadi was reading the directions from Google maps and after so many lefts, we realised were going away further from the stadium and changed the tour guide.

We eventually reached the stadium which was already full of people in blue, one admirably in a blue tutu skirt considering the temperature had dropped to 10 degrees and the wind chill making it feel like 1 degree.

Going to watch Fiji's games in the Rugby League World Cup is similar to going to a Skipper Cup or Farebrother Challenge in Fiji.

Fijians galore

In Townsville, they brought the lali, ukulele to the stands for the two matches. In Canberra, it was the dholak.

Brisbane is booked out. It's hard or impossible to find accommodation within the CBD area.

Fijians are coming all over and even Townsville fans will do the eight hour trip in their buses.

Fijian community "chief" organiser, Sala Vateitei has already sent the alert on social media.

Fijians that cannot be here physically have sent their well wishes to the team.

"The boys have definitely received all the messages from Fiji, near and abroad and we can't thank you enough, we just ask for your prayers and to keep supporting us.

"We thank you for the opportunity that you have chosen us, this squad and the staff to carry the nation of Fiji forward and we are going to try and work hard and win that cup," captain Kevin Naiqama said.

Senior player, Eloni Vunakece had this to say to all Fijian supporters:

"A big vinaka vakalevu to everyone for the support that has been coming in droves. We may not be able to reply in person, we certainly see it and we are extremely thankful.

"We do know the whole nation of Fiji and the Fijians around the world, people who have been to Fiji, who want to go to Fiji are able to see the things that we do, the people that we are able to do.

"We are a small nation but with big hearts and loving people."

Toso Viti toso!

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