Every country has a sport that its citizens are particularly passionate about. For Fiji, that sport is rugby. Yes, rugby – that sport where you get to watch players hurling themselves fearlessly onto the opposing team members who will try their best to get an oval-shaped ball behind the other team’s scoreline. The sport has a version of the game where there are fifteen players, and version where there are seven players.
Fiji is the World Seven Rugby Champions at the moment and we are proud of it.
Some say the game is barbaric but for us Fijians, we can’t get enough of it. We love the sport and to those who think less of the game… weaklings. Rugby was initially seen as a game for men only but in recent years, women’s teams and Development of Rugby at the primary school and secondary school levels has taken off on our islands.
Fiji may have excellent women rugby players, but unfortunately they still don’t get the credit they’re due. Many spectators believe it’s acceptable to ridicule women’s teams by shouting things like, “Go clean the house!” or “Go back home and help your mother!” Therefore, any island women who step up to play rugby must have thick skin. Women’s rugby is usually the curtain-raiser before any big match so by the time the main match is due to start, several of the spectators will be stitches from watching the women, having spent the game making fun of the players with their rude and belittling comments. The jeering from the crowd is unrelenting and it’s not a pretty sight, only stopping when the women’s game is over. Despite this, women’s rugby in Fiji has continued to grow, with more and more female Fijian players getting involved in the game. Here’s hoping they’re able to change some deeply held perspectives about women in sports.
Also growing in popularity are the Development games for island youth. I have three sons that are currently involved in rugby at their schools: the under sixteen, the under ten, and the under nine. Because of this, I am now a proud Island Rugby Mama. When I first started out as a rugby mama, I used to think rocking up to the ground to watch my sons play was more than enough commitment from me. I mean, I would return home after every game with a hoarse voice from cheering – I was clearly devoted. But as the years went on, my commitment also started to increase in responsibility. Before I knew it, I was fundraising for rugby team uniforms, transporting lunches for the teams, and washing the dirty uniforms. All that, and I STILL returned home with a hoarse voice after the games.
Even though rugby is the main sport in Fiji, the authorized governing body of the sport has limited funds and hence, most of the Development of the sport that occurs in the early stages for island youth is funded by parents and organized by volunteers. These volunteers, who are usually teachers volunteering on their own time and at their own cost, also take time out to organize competitions that are run weekly. A lot of parents and guardians do not realize all of this. I was one of them, but since I started helping out with a bit of the behind the scenes stuff, I came to realize the truth. On our islands, I feel like every parent needs to put in just a little more effort into the things that interest our children so we can make sure they’re getting the opportunities on our rocks that they deserve.
So a word of encouragement to my fellow island mamas – get more involved in whatever your child is into. Children love seeing their parents involved in their passions and on an island, sometimes we need to help create the opportunities they need to have fun and thrive.
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Do your island kids play sports on your rock too?