A tribute to captain Falemiga Selesele

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Take a bow captain Falemiga Selesele! You’ve done it. 

The people of this country – and Samoans all over the world – not only owe you a heartfelt thank you; they also owe you an apology. 

That includes Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, the Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, who is well known for some of the nastiest comments he’s made about you over the years.

To be fair to the Prime Minister though, he is not the only one. 

Many of us – yes including this writer – have from time to time written you off, based on some pretty average performances of the team over the years.  

Even when you were appointed the captain, you had a lot of doubters. There were many people who questioned the decision; again their criticism was based on what they had seen. 

And when the team continued to flop during the early days of Damian McGrath, the results definitely did not help your cause.

But respect is earned, we believe. Today, we want to say you have earned our respect. And for that we say thank you.

Thank you for being steadfast in your commitment to make Samoa proud despite the tremendous odds. 

Thank you for remaining the humble warrior that you are. 

Unlike others, you did not respond in any negative form to the criticisms, sarcasm from everyone including the Prime Minister, and when you became the butt of jokes about the failure of the team – even though some of it was not necessarily your fault.

Thank you for preserving when others would have thrown in the towel and given up. We can appreciate how difficult it is to remain positive in the midst of criticisms – especially in a country where everyone thinks they can be better than you. 

Yet you did not waver. You knuckled down, you did what you had to do and we’ve seen over the years how your game has grown from strength to strength.

For this reason, you are an inspiration. 

You are a role model whose drive to succeed should be followed and emulated. 

In this country today, young people are looking for heroes. They need role models. This column is of the opinion that we don’t have to look far. 

Selesele is one of them. 

The reason is simple. Let me explain. He was not born a star. He did not become a star overnight. He is the product of a desire so deep and a willingness to take on the odds and come out victorious. 

The best quality we’ve seen in Selesele is his humility. He is a soft-spoken leader who hardly bats an eyelid when the going gets tough. That is a hero in our eyes. He is what makes a true champion.

In Paris last weekend, it could not have been more fitting for World Rugby to honour Selesele as the Player of the Tournament. He epitomized the spirit of his team throughout the competition. He was courageous, worked hard, led from the front and he remained composed under immense duress. Against Fiji in the final, he was a stand out; he was a giant and how fitting was it for him to score the winning try. Prior to the final, he made the try saving tackle that prevented Argentina from stealing a late win, thus denying Samoa a final berth.

What’s important to remember is that Selesele’s performance of late did not just happen automatically. It did not eventuate overnight. That is the result of years of hard work, dedication and a real commitment to succeed.

It’s true that the Paris Sevens title is not the ‘be all and end all’ of accolades in Sevens rugby. 

Selesele and his men have still got a lot more work to do, starting this weekend with a pool at the London Sevens that already includes South Africa, U.S.A. and Canada.

But before we move away from the euphoria of Samoa’s Sevens triumph in Paris, let’s give credit where it’s due. While there were many heroes during the tournament, we believe Selesele was exceptional. 

We want to say thank you once again. And sorry for ever doubting you.

Now go on and keep flying that Samoan flag.

Well done, you good man!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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