Power of sports

“SPORTS haVE the power to change the world, it has the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youths in a language they understand and it can create hope where once there was only despair, former South Africa President Nelson Mandela once said.

The words of the late great leader rings true to many. His words of wisdom helped unify his country, especially after his country hosted and won the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

The quote has also been a source of inspiration to a Korean family which is staying in Fiji for the next 12 months.

Not knowing what to expect while settling into a new country with its own culture and way of life, for Gitae Jeong and his family, coming to Fiji would mean a whole new challenges with its social, cultural and religious rules, expectations, barriers.

But Jeong who is an exchange student at the University of the South Pacific (USP), Laucala Bay Campus in Suva, said making new friends was made easier through sports.

When introduced to the USP volleyball team, he achieved what would have normally taken a person some time to learn, absorb and practise.

Just like the saying ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’

Despite the differences in culture and language, Jeong connected with the USP team because he loves to play volleyball.

He used to play volleyball for his university back home.

Jeong said Fiji had a very strong volleyball culture.

He said this while watching the Fiji Vanua Volleyball Challenge at the LICI Courts at Laucala Bay. He was accompanied by his wife Yunjeong Song, and their two children; six-year-old son Hyeonseong Jeong and four-year-old daughter, Hayun Jeong.

“Volleyball is very popular in Fiji,” Jeong said.

“I will be teaching my students back home about volleyball and I will be sharing with them how exciting it was for me to watch Fijians play the game.”

He said the culture of the sport in Fiji was something he would be sharing with his friends, students, colleagues and loved ones back home.

“Especially the friendly smiles. That is something that I will never forget.

“I am amazed at how members of various communities turned out in big numbers cheering and supporting their teams during the competition. That leaves an impression on Fiji which has bright future in volleyball.”

Fii Volleyball plans

With the conclusion of the Fiji Volleyball Vanua Challenge, Fiji Volleyball Federation has begun endeavouring in uncharted and untapped waters.

The federation is developing a system that ensures improvement in the sport and the standard of competition.

The system will encourage team participation and in turn would increase the popularity of the sport and one day could equal rugby and soccer as one of the major most sought after sports in the country.

FVF senior vice-president Taitusi Naiduki said they had submitted their bid to host the Oceania Club Championship in November.

He said they had introduced a new format where the top eight local club teams would represent Fiji in the championship.

Development

Volleyball, like all sports, needs financial assistance.

It could be described as a potential growing sport barely keeping its head above waters.

Most local tournaments are self-funded and lacked sponsorship.

Most volleyball players, despite their love for the sport and talent to become top players had to turn to other sports because of financial constraints being faced by their families.

“What we are doing is developing these new competitions and expose young talents so they can have a brighter future through volleyball,” Naiduki said.

According to him, Fiji has an abundance of talents, but the FVF lacked finances in developing and exposing those talents in major tournaments.

“We are an amateur sport, and for us to be operating at those high levels, it’s quite a bit change for us to get the clubs to accept these changes,” he said.

Meanwhile, Marist won the Vanua Challenge in the men’s super premier beating Eagles by two straight sets. Wai beat Rylanders two sets to one in the women’s final.

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