Our love affair with 7s

They were out in full force when our national side ran out on to the field for the Canada 7s at the weekend. They provided the lung power that inspired the national side.

When it mattered the most, they served as a constant reminder of the support the national side had over the two-day event.

Canada-based Fijian 7s fans were out in numbers yesterday to farewell the new Canada 7s champions.

As the team prepared to depart for Fiji, they shared roti and curry parcels with emotional fans. It provided a touch of home. In a faraway land, it united Fijians. The players were humbled by the gesture.

It was a special moment that deserved to be told. This is what makes Fijian sevens rugby special.

The game has surpassed every other sport here in terms of popularity.

That actually cuts through every imaginable demarcation line.

It casts aside religion, gender, age and ethnicity.

What is left is a solid foundation held together by a sport that embraces every Fijian.

Such is the power of the abbreviated version of rugby union.

The average man on the street is an “expert”, the cab driver has an intimate knowledge of the game, the rural farmer has his opinion, the grandmother and wife have their views and the little kid in primary school even has a say.

When all is said and done, there is an intimate connection that unites the masses. We love the game with a passion. It is something we are very good at. This is one sport where our tiny nation actually punches above its weight and we are able to stand confidently against the giants of the world of rugby.

That lifts our spirits, and has the potential to take our emotions on a roller-coaster ride.

National 7s coach Gareth Baber obviously is now accustomed to criticism.

By now he understands the importance of the game to Fijians.

It can virtually bring our nation to a standstill and people to erupt in joy when we win a tournament.

Baber knows the game is big here.

It means the world to Fijians and is one reason he has a very hot seat.

Among the fans at the YVR International Airport was Alistair Pallad, a diehard 7s fan. He had prayed and fasted for the team before the tournament.

“It’s nice to see strength in God and unity,” he said.

Having lived in Canada for the past 40 years, he said his heart and soul has always been in Fiji and for the team.

In a sense, he was speaking on behalf of thousands of fans.

Baber is now under pressure. He has the prestigious Hong Kong 7s looming, followed by the Commonwealth Games.

Now more than ever, he needs our support to prepare our team well. Go Fiji, go.

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