From the Editor-in-Chief’s desk: Your September 20 briefing
20 September, 2023, 6:52 am
Lekima Tagitagivalu knows too well how the French are rugby crazy and was not surprised about the support shown to the Flying Fijians in the match against Australia. Playing for Pau in the Top 14 competition, the 27-year-old flanker is a favourite in the French competition. He is one of several Fijian players in the Flying Fijians squad who plys his trade in France. Like in the match against Wales, the French turned out in numbers to support their second favourite team – Fiji. Their cheers, and those of Fijians who travelled from around the world to Saint Etienne on Monday, rang through the stadium. That’s the lead on the front page of The Fiji Times for September 20.
Here are some headlines inside:
TOURISTS made up close to 80 per cent of total visitor arrivals last month. Fiji Bureau of Statistics CEO Kamueli Naiqama said of the 87,368 visitors that came to Fiji last month, 79.7 per cent of them were tourists. “Of the 87,368 visitors, 86,100 came by air while 1268 came by sea,” Mr Naiqama said. He said a total of 35,765 (40.9 per cent) visitors were from Australia, 24,241(27.8 per cent) were from New Zealand, 9215 were Americans (10.6 per cent) and 3876 were from China.
A FIJI Sugar Corporation employee working as a pointsman on a locomotive had both his legs crushed in Nadi on Monday night. Temo Narube was in front of the moving locomotive at the time of the incident. “Confirming the report and that the victim is admitted at the Lautoka Hospital in critical condition,” said Divisional Police Commander West SSP Iakobo Vaisewa said.
Remember we have the Kaila! edition inside every Wednesday.
Have you ever thought about the support for the Flying Fijians? The fan base that is!
Think about it. Who can ever dispute where the hearts of Flying Fijians fans lie!
A video is trending on social media. It shows a group of Fijians on their way to watch the Flying Fijians, obviously against Wales in our opener.
You can see Welsh fans and Irish fans. There are flags waving inside what appears to be a train.
There is a discussion nearby between Welsh fans and a Fijian. Something is said and the Fijian is heard muttering: “Waraka” (Wait for it!)
Fijian music from a musical boom box blares in the background and someone says: “Toso mai” (Move closer). Someone else says: Tou sa varau laga sere qo!” (Let’s prepare to sing)
Then as the song blasts out “au vakataroga”, Fijians join in, singing their hearts out. There’s a ukelele raised in the air, and the music envelopes the Fijians.
They sing their hearts out. What you then see is passengers joining in.
Green colours, the white and blue of Fiji, and red of Wales join in to be embraced by Fijian music!
Fans from different backgrounds, backing different teams are connected by the beautiful music, in a foreign land, inside a train!
Special or what?
As the video eventually drifts away, you can see fans united for a moment in time.
It inches out the beauty of rugby and fans from Fiji.
It was goosebump-raising stuff. Clearly there is much to play for. And national coach Simon Raiwalui wanted his men to know that.
That’s why he took them back to their roots.
He wanted every member of our team to realise their effort at this event on the world stage means so much to a nation.
There is passion and there is hope.
The fans will move mountains to watch their stars on show.
The Flying Fijians had to remember that.
Raiwalui wanted that. He wanted them to appreciate what they were playing for, to believe in themselves and to place value on their supporter base.
You’ve got to be a Fijian fan, to love your Flying Fijians, to know what it means to watch them on the world stage.
Now translate that to that amazing win over Australia.
Fans waited for that game at the ungodly hour of 3.45am. it wasn’t too early for them. It did not matter that they’d be losing sleep, and work and school was on a few hours later.
The expectations were high. The anticipation was high. The kava would have been flowing as fans waited.
So when the Flying Fijians walked onto that pitch at Saint Etienne in France, they were carrying the hopes and aspirations of thousands of Fijians around the world who were glued to the television, and social media platforms.
The rest, as they say, is history.
As we try our best to settle back into our daily chores, there is renewed hope looking forward to the next big game against Georgia on September 30.
Our scrums are rock solid now. We were tested against England, Wales, and Australia, and we came off with top marks.
Against Australia, we unveiled a reliable kicker in Simione Kuruvoli and a powerhouse centre combination in Josua Tuisova partnering skipper Waisea Nayacalevu.
Our backrowers continue to impress and number eight big Bill Mata has been a tower of strength.
We massacred the Wallabies in the breakdowns and put the world on notice.
So now as Raiwalui tries to fix our lineout woes, there is hope for big things.
On the homefront, we look up to the powers that be to consider measures and processes that will engage the fans, and promote the game, maximizing this latest round of mileage. It will be good for the sport, for the fans and for the players. Remember we won the 2016 Rio Olympics gold medal. That was our first gold medal at the premier sporting event. Yet we failed to maximise on that to move our sevens program to the next level.
As the sounds of that song on that train, somewhere in Europe faded, Fijian fans, joined by Irish and Welsh fans sang together: “Au vakataroga”.
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