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Savai'i player makes impact in his new country

A 22-year-old Samoan rugby player from Savai'i who has made the Japanese Sevens rugby team is still a proud Samoan. 

Savai’i-born, Timo Fiti Sufia, who was the first scholarship recipient of Rugby Academy Samoa (R.A.S.) in 2016, will play for Japan in the upcoming HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Hamilton, New Zealand.

Sufia told the Samoa Observer in a Facebook interview that he was honored to represent Japan and he will give it his best shot.

“I am excited to play my first ever official rugby game for Japan, I am honored to be playing in a team I’ve never expected to play in as well,” he said.

“I am grateful to R.A.S for the opportunity given to me to resume my studies in this unfamiliar country and I’ll make sure I won’t let them down.”

The academy was founded by Mase Mahonri Schwalger, a former Samoan rugby international who captained Manu Samoa at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. 

Getting introduced to the sport during his childhood days in Savai’i, Sufia said he started playing rugby at a young age and also represented Alofi o Taoa College.

“I started playing rugby with my cousins and friends at our village in Savaii, then I represented Alofi o Taoa College in college tournaments and that’s where I heard about the R.A.S and I wanted to be a part of it as soon as possible,” he said.

He graduated from college in 2015 before joining the R.A.S., where he was fortunate to receive a scholarship to go to Japan a year later.

“I came to Japan in 2016 and my contract ends this year and now the coach of Japan’s sevens team have chosen me to join Japan's squad,” he said.

Sufia was spotted by the Japanese sevens team coach during a match at the Asahi University in Mizuho, Japan where he is studying. 

“I may be happy that I was chosen but there are also challenges that come with it like feeling homesick and being away from family and friends for such a long time,” he added.

Despite the challenges of being away from family in his village of Letui and Vailoa, Sufia said he wants to make his loved ones proud as a member of the Japanese sevens squad. 

“I’m here for a purpose and it is my duty to fulfill it, I want to say thank you to Mahonri and staff for this chance I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t given me the chance,” he said. “Being away from my family for four years is very hard, but I know this is the only way for me to pursue my dreams and to help my family out when I am successful.”

And with the game continuing to evolve in terms of skills, Sufia said he wants to make the best of his exposure with Japan’s national team, though the ultimate goal of playing for Manu Samoa will always be there.

“I have always dreamed of playing in the Blue Jersey in the future but I guess I’ll have to play for Japan for now. I will play to the best of my ability, doesn’t matter what team as long as I play the sport I’ve always loved.”

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