An island might have defeated an entire continent yesterday in the final of the Rio Olympics Sevens tournament but Fiji definitely did not lack support – on many different levels.
And if the loud cheers and wild celebrations in Apia that followed the empathic victory in the gold medal match is anything to go by, this is a proud moment for Pacific rugby.
So proud there is no doubt we all would have been quite happy to be Fijians yesterday. The Samoan saying “Ua ta fia Falealili fua” rang out loud and truly when Ben Ryan’s men demolished their opponents, 43-7, in a display of skills and talent only the Fijians could showcase.
It was master class in how the abbreviated code should be played. It was entertaining, magical, free flowing, clinical and it was top quality stuff the powers that be in rugby should take note of.
Indeed, Fiji’s victory not only created history for their people given it is their first Olympic gold medal, as Pacific islanders, it was a victory for all of us. It was a victory for the under privileged and the under funded teams in world rugby. It was a victory for the minnows whose plight are often ignored by the fat cats of rugby.
What a moment that was. Fiji didn’t just defeat one team; they demolished England, Wales and Scotland in style. It was a hiding in every aspect of rugby . Prior to that, they conquered the almighty All Blacks and everyone else that stood in their path.
In normal circumstances, most people on these shores would have backed the All Blacks. But in the build up to Rio, it would have been rather foolish for anyone to put money on the All Blacks against Fiji. There was no way the Fijians would have let this one go.
Interestingly enough, since their exit from Rio, the post mortem of New Zealand rugby and their failure to win gold has identified a number of problems. The finger pointing in New Zealand has already started and it could well mean a change of the guard for one of the world’s most respected rugby coaches, Sir Gordon Tietjens.
Sadly, buried amidst the anger and disappointment is the simple fact New Zealand lost to a better team. It happens and that’s life. Deal with it. You see, Fiji have been setting the pace for the past couple of years and with Ben Ryan’s clinical and methodical approach, it must be said that no other team could have stood a chance.
The point is that Fiji deserves to be the Olympic champions. They deserve to be crowned on biggest stage in world sport – much bigger than the Rugby World Cup. And that is what it is all about.
For us in Samoa, it doesn’t matter that Fijians are sometimes our foes on the rugby paddock – and in the political arena. What they have achieved is worthy of our support and today we should rejoice and congratulate our fellow Pacific family. Now, if only the national holiday could be extended to all Pacific countries so we could all continue to celebrate.
But then that might just be the motivation for our rugby administrators to start planning and to make the necessary changes so that we too could experience the heights Fiji rugby has reached.
There are lessons for everyone here. There are lessons from New Zealand’s disappointment. There are lessons from Fiji’s triumph. There are also lessons from our very own failure to reach the Olympics.
But now is not the time to talk about failures.
It’s a time to rejoice with those who are rejoicing. It is time to look to Fiji and be inspired by their achievement. And it sure is a time to acknowledge that God – whom the Fijian team have been praising all along even right after their victory yesterday – is faithful enough to help those who put in the hard work and do their part.
Congratulations Fiji, vinaka vaka levu!