An appeal from a heartbroken mother and the need for constructive, not destructive criticisms
Members of the public and supporters of Samoan rugby have a right to be disappointed. It comes with the territory especially when expectations are high as a result of a solid reputation that has been built through blood, sweat and tears over the years.
From the glory days of Samoan rugby when the Manu Samoa and other national teams were among the most feared in the world to what is happening today, there is a lot to be said about how this once very proud nation has become almost a joke on the world stage when it comes to the game.
Everyone will have something to say and for good reason.
When it comes to Samoan rugby, our national team, Manu Samoa, has always been the people’s team. Without the backing of major global sponsors such as the ones that keep the likes of the All Blacks, England and other big countries going, it is the people and their generosity that has sustained the team.
The same can be said about the Manu Samoa Sevens, Samoa A and other national teams. The passion, love and support for our teams, anything Samoa in fact, cannot be questioned. We have witnessed this in action time and time again.
But this passion, care and support have slowly faded over the years with the form – or the lack of – of our national teams.
From the Manu Samoa to the Manu Sevens, if we’re honest, it has been a long time between drinks. Aside from the Manusina winning the inaugural Asia Pacific Championships in Fiji last year, there has hardly been anything to celebrate. Look at the manner with which Japan demolished Samoa A in Fiji two days ago where they won by some 70 points. And for the fans, even the most ardent of supporters, they have had enough.
The Manu Samoa Sevens, once the pride of Samoa when they were crowned world champions, hardly generates the sort of interest they once commanded. Their continuing poor form on the H.S.B.C. World Sevens Series, including the most recent one in Vancouver, tells a very sad story.
Despite the constant assurances from the team management about whatever it is they are doing, results have been woeful. Which is why members of the public and fans have become extremely disappointed and frustrated.
But this piece is not about results and how poor our rugby has become. This is appealing to our people’s humanity and human decency in how we respond to the disappointment and frustrations.
On the pages of the Samoa Observer on Wednesday featured a very sad story. It is that of a mother who issued an impassioned plea to members of the public in relation to criticisms of the players.
Leone Leaupepetele Perez, the mother of Manu Samoa Sevens player, Joe Perez, called on Samoans to be more responsible with their criticisms. Following the Manu Sevens performance in Vancouver, Leone said she cried when she was told about people who have taken to social media to compare her son’s appearance to a man’s private parts.
“I am a mother and I love my son,” she said. “I’m sure anyone who is a mother can understand how I feel especially when people say really hurtful stuff about their children.
“I am heartbroken about what people are saying on Facebook about my son. I am heartbroken after finding out that my son is a victim of vulgar criticism by some Facebook users.
“Joe is my youngest son and what parent would want to hear that their child is being subjected to disgusting criticisms,” she said.
Leone accepts that her son is a public figure and as a member of the Sevens team, sometimes people will criticize his performance. But the criticisms have gone too far this time, she said.
She reminded that every child is dear to his/her parents.
“My son is no exception,” she said. “At the end of the day, it is a game. To all those people who continue to say really bad stuff about them, please stop. These players have families and they too have feelings.”
Leone is right.
But she is up against a big brick wall in terms of what people say on social media. Aside from the fact that no one can control what an individual posts, we also know people write some pretty nasty stuff when they are angry The players in the Manu Samoa Sevens are unfortunately the subject of that anger.
Today, however, we write this from the shoes of Leone as a mother. Members of the public have a right to be angry, disappointed and frustrated. They also have every right to say whatever especially in light of the team’s performance.
But let’s exercise that freedom with caution and care. Let’s be respectful in voicing those opinions with the idea they are constructive criticisms designed to build, encourage and edify.
Let’s also remember that we are not talking about rocks and tree trunks. We are talking about other people who have feelings too. They have families and loved ones who hurt just as our families and loved ones hurt too when we are criticised and poorly treated.
What’s important is that we learn to recognise the root of our problems, in this case the poor form of our rugby teams. It’s complicated, we know. There are layers and layers of issues we need to peel before we get to the bottom. That process needs to begin as soon as possible.
In the absence of that, the players in the meantime become easy targets for criticisms because they are the ones on the field.
Understand this truth though; it takes a lot more than players and coaches to create a winning culture. You can get the best coaches and the best players in the world but it does guarantee success. That will only be possible when the systems being put in place in the boardroom by administrators and the powers that be provide an enabling environment conducive to allow the best players and the best coaches to shine.
If there is anything in Samoan rugby that needs constructive criticisms, it is precisely that. What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us!