Editorial comment | On a separate note

Luke Tagi on attack against Wales in their Rugby World Cup opener at the Bordeaux Metropole Stadium in France. Picture: MARTIN SERAS LIMA

It is difficult not to be swayed by the emotions surrounding the Flying Fijians’ game against Wales on Monday.

It’s the hottest topic around right now. And that too in the face of overwhelming displeasure over how things turned out.

For whatever it’s worth, the Flying Fijians have come of age. We are competitive and we are actually playing to the level of the tier one nations.

We are no longer the easy beats we once were. We are contesting the scrums and lineouts. We are defending effectively against the maul and we are assertive.

There is new found confidence across the team. You can even feel this confidence among the fans. They have a lot to cheer for.

We can afford to dream big because we have a team that is competitive. You can see the result of experience and exposure to top level competitions.

Now that’s good for Fijian rugby. While we don’t want to be constantly comparing the fortunes of rugby against soccer, there has to be something said about development.

It hasn’t been a bed of roses for rugby union supporters. The sport, over the years, stared at a blank wall. We were easy beats.

We succumbed by massive margins to top teams. In spite of this, fans still had hopes for a change in fortunes.

It has taken the governing Fiji Rugby Union years to get to where we are today. Along the way, a lot has changed at the grassroots level. Club games continue.

Age group level competitions are very popular. You only had to be at the elimination stages of the secondary schools Deans Trophy finals recently to feel the emotions attached to the event.

Our national age group teams are competitive on the international stage. We have a sevens rugby program running parallel to the development of women’s rugby.

Now the question is going to be how do we translate the popularity of rugby union to soccer? There has to be a concerted effort to reinvent the wheels when it comes to local club soccer competitions.

We look to the governing Fiji Football Association to improve its work on development because it is obvious nothing is working right now. It is reflecting on our very poor form internationally. The Fiji FA must encourage club soccer, and raise the profile of age group soccer.

There must also be a concerted effort to organise more international outings for the Bula Boys every year. Players must have something to strive for every year.

They must have a reason to raise their profile and keep them motivated. We look to the powers that be to do the right thing and engage with the fans and experts of the game.

We have said it before, soccer belongs to the people and people must have a role in the development of the sport.

And why do we even raise these issues? It’s because of the masses who follow the two sports. They number in the thousands. There has to be accountability and transparency!

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