Discipline all Pacific Games unruly athletes

By The Editorial Board 05 December 2023, 10:00AM

For an island nation with a population of just 200,000 Samoa has stood taller than many of the other Pacific nations which have a bigger population and better sporting facilities in the Pacific Games. This shows in the final medal count.

The nation has something to be very proud of. The team returned with a medal haul of 34 gold medals, 21 silver, and 21 bronze and placed fourth overall. Much better than Fiji and Papua New Guinea. This goes to show the dedication and commitment the athletes, coaches and administrators of sports have had in the build up to the Pacific Games.

Samoa shone in the swimming pool with gold medals won in both the men and women’s events. For a nation which has just one Olympic grade swimming pool, this was a marvellous achievement. The touch team which keeps playing at different venues brought back three gold medals.

The weightlifting team and the likes of Don Opeloge had a massive haul of 15 gold medals which almost makes half of the gold medal count. The young girls who competed in tennis also did very well. Sailing and va’a athletes excelled and so did the athletes in various track and field events.

Rest assured, Samoa will be represented at the Olympic Games in France with a gold medal performance in boxing. The boxing event also doubled as Olympic qualifiers and this saw the inclusion of Australia and New Zealand in the boxing events as well.

However, all the hard work and achievements have had a black spot on them by the behaviour of a few athletes and officials in Solomon Islands. The first such incident was the rugby league final where Samoa won gold. This gold was overshadowed by the after-match brawl which was uncalled for. The late tackle by the Fijian was something for the referee to take action against, not for team officials and other players to get involved.

There is always a physical confrontation element in physical sport which has always been limited to pushing, shoving or holding someone by the collar but what happened on that day was shameful. A video of an official punching a Fijian player while he was being held by a Samoan player showed how ugly the incident was.

There was no mention of the incident by the Team Samoa officials nor have the Rugby League Samoa said anything about taking disciplinary action.

The second incident was also caught on video was the fight in the cafeteria of the Games Village between Samoa volleyball players. There is suggestion that the players could have been intoxicated and this led to the internal squabble. This is a team where they are supposed to be brothers and not beating the hell out of each other.

Again, there is no word from any officials. The rightful thing to do is call each and every player before a disciplinary board and if they are found guilty, face suspension or ban from the sport.

A Papua New Guinean official, David A. Lawrence expressed his views on one of the videos as well as 500 others saying such behaviour should not be condoned at the Pacific Games.

"There is a fine line between sports for development and Pasifika people. If your athletes don't have good sportsmanship and don't have emotional intelligence, then they should not be allowed to play at such games and remain in village competitions," he said.

"The fact that many people are commenting saying that it's a normal Pacific family thing. You may be right but this is not your village. The spirit of the games has a code of ethics that must be upheld. Period!"

The Pacific Games is the epitome of sports for most Pacific nations. There is a certain spirit of the game that has to be maintained by all and this includes discipline. There is a time for celebration with alcohol and parties once the athletes return home. The actions of some athletes have put a spot on Team Samoa and Samoa. Team Samoa will now be known as a team of instigators and troublemakers when this is not true for the majority of the athletes who kept discipline and were standout sportsmen and sportswomen.

For these troublemaking athletes to escape punishment or consequences of their actions, it would be a shame not only to the sporting bodies but to the nation as well.

By The Editorial Board 05 December 2023, 10:00AM
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