He’s all set for 7s action

Sakeasi Lalai receives his tickets to the 42nd Fiji Bitter Marist 7s from MOB Media representative James Vunituraga. Picture: SUPPLIED/MOB Media

Sakeasi Lalai receives his tickets to the 42nd Fiji Bitter Marist 7s from MOB Media representative James Vunituraga. Picture: SUPPLIED/MOB Media

IT’S all smiles for Sakeasi Lalai today as he watches some classy sevens action live. That’s because he will be doing so from the comfort with its accompanying privileges of a corporate box.

Since his first Fiji Bitter Marist 7s tournament more than 20 years ago, Sake made himself a promise to be present at the ANZ Stadium every year.

The vibrant atmosphere coupled with the most spectacular display of local sevens rugby is what caught the heart of the now 39-year-old.

Weeks prior to the tournament he alongside other relatives would dive for bêche-de-mer in Yasawa to save enough for the long travel to the Capital City and tickets to the tournament.

Being the youngest in a family of seven siblings Sake sacrificed furthering his education after leaving the then Viwa Fijian School at Year 8.

“I gave up school to help my parents. Diving was our source of income so that is what I did to help meet my family’s basic needs.

“I remember the first time I came to the Marist 7s and that was in 1996, me and my uncle went diving and we saved enough to bring us to Suva to witness the tournament. We enjoyed ourselves and it was the reason why I kept coming back.”

Sadly though for the Yakani, Viwa, Yasawa native with maternal links to Kese on the island of Naviti, he suffered decompression sickness (bends) from diving. He therefore had to look for other avenues to not only help sustain his family but also witness the annual sevens tournament.

Unfortunately, he was not given proper treatment and being confined to a wheelchair in 2000, Sake has ended up on the streets begging for money to help put food on the table, take care of his medical bills and get to watch the largest and most sought after local rugby tournament in the country.

“This is my way of supporting rugby in the country, to be at the ground, cheer for all the teams and to have a good time.”

In February, while he was standing near the MHCC complex when Marist Rugby Club president Lawrence Tikaram walked past him.

“I said ‘hello’ to him and I told him, for every year since 2000 I have been begging on the streets in order to purchase my tickets for the Fiji Bitter Marist 7s and I asked him if he could kindly give me tickets to watch the tournament, he agreed and told me to call him one day before the tournament.

“I would like to thank the Marist Rugby Club that I will be able to witness this year’s tournament,” he said with a smile after receiving his tickets from MRC media rep James Vunituraga.

Mr Tikaram said people like Lalai were the epitome of Fiji’s loyal rugby 7s fan base.

“These are people who truly appreciate what the sport has to offer and will turn up for any major tournament,” Mr Tikaram said.

“Fans like this are the reason the tournament has grown in its following because they go out and tell the story and Lalai has been telling the Fiji Bitter Marist 7s story since 1996.

“We are happy to help him fulfil his dream of watching the tournament every year.”

* This article was written using material supplied by MOB Media.

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