Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sports -An Extension of Politics by Any Other Means?

A livid Fijian football chief plans to take New Zealand's refusal to allow his side's goalkeeper into the country to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport. Fiji will play the All Whites at North Harbour Stadium on Saturday in a vital World Cup qualification match.

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This particular story was also featured in The Australian newspaper and the following is an excerpt:

Court challenge to Fiji goalie ban

October 11, 2007

WELLINGTON: Fiji plans to take the New Zealand Government to court for refusing to grant its soccer team's goalkeeper a visa.
The gvernment has rushed through visas for the team so they can play the All Whites at North Harbour Stadium on Saturday - in a vital World Cup qualification match.

However, it declined their first choice goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau entry because because his father-in-law is a military policeman. Under sanctions imposed by New Zealand after last December's coup in Fiji, people with ties to the military cannot come to the country.

Fiji Football Association president Sahu Khan said he planned to take the situation to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport. He was sure the court would nullify the game because it was “grossly unfair”, he told the New Zealand Herald.

“He is a key goalkeeper, and it is a very vital position. For the New Zealand government to say that we give visas to all the others and not to him...means Fiji is not only playing New Zealand, but we are also playing the New Zealand Government.”

Fiji would play the game under protest, Dr Khan said. A letter had been sent to football's world governing body Fifa protesting the situation, he said.

He hoped they would take Fiji's side “No more Oceanian or Fifa games should be played in New Zealand until they give up on these sanctions.”

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Winston Peters said any Fijian sports team coming to New Zealand for an internationally sanctioned event would be held up to the sanctions.

“New Zealand has the right to deny entry to any member of a sports team as it sees fit.” No appeal from Fifa had been received yet, the spokesman said.


This particular case, confirms that the demarcation between Sports and Politics have been conveniently blurred by the New Zealand Government and as a result of their heavy handed approach with respect to issuance of travel visas, has invariably relegated the New Zealand Government to the position of villain; while elevating Fiji's status as a victim, further undermining New Zealand's soft power into the Pacific region.

The issue of Sports and Politics was revisited in the wake of Fiji's performance in the 2007 Rugby World Cup; when local Economist, Dr. Wadan Narsey called for a Free-Trade in Rugby; as the Pacific Island Rugby playing nations have captured the imagination of the Rugby world with their recent performances during the Rugby World Cup with a passionate brand of hard-hitting and free-running rugby. Fiji, Samoa and Tonga have not been playing on a level playing field with Tier 1 nations like Australia and New Zealand; despite repeated calls to bring the Pacific islanders into their fold of an expanded Super 14 competition.

This is the excerpt of Dr. Wadan Narsey views as published in a Fiji Times article:

When our rugby was noticed

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Members of the Flying Fijians have won praises for the victory over Wales.

The performance by the Flying Fijians at the Rugby World Cup in France when they beat Wales 38-34 on Sunday has been commended by many people who believe such a victory attracts massive economic benefits for a country that badly needs it.

This is because four billion people would have watched the game on television while 1.8million rugby fans, 600 players and 3500 media people visited Europe to be part of the 2007 World Cup.

Such exposure for Fiji greatly benefits a struggling tourism sector and would get many people visiting websites to access information about our country which has been in the spotlight negatively since 5/12 for the military takeover of an elected government.

For many the win came as a surprise as even though the Fiji Rugby Union's target was for the team to reach the quarter finals, some fans thought otherwise, judging from past performances.

Ilivasi Tabua, the former Queensland rugby flanker who hails from Naivicula, Tailevu, since taking up the coaching post from Wayne Pivac has had a mammoth task molding a new combination of players to lead Fiji to the Rugby World Cup. He was restricted by time and money and deserves to be congratulated.

The former Australia-based player nicknamed the human skewer' replaced Pivac who stepped down citing personal reasons. Tabua is now admired for trusting his men despite criticism since the beginning of the year.

A former Fiji rep at the 1987 World Cup Sairusi Naituku said the country's political instability helped the team perform at another level just as they did 20 years ago in New Zealand.

"Twenty years ago this was the same feeling the team went through before qualifying for the quarter-finals against France where a gallant Fiji side was defeated 16-31 as it was also after a coup but as rugby players with the country at heart, we decided to be above politics," said Naituku.

The Natabua High School teacher said it took another Fijian coach to take Fiji up to "that level of rugby".

"In 1987 it was Jo Sovau and this year it is Tabua, so we can confidently say that we do not need expatriates paid hefty salaries and perks to boost the performance of the team," he said. "The political crisis is a blessing in disguise because it is a challenge as through rugby, life friendships are built," said the former tighthead prop.

Naituku said rugby was something that made Fiji significant on the map even though many people struggled to find where it was naturally because it was just a "dot" on the globe. Acting Fiji Islands Visitors Bureau chief executive Patrick Wong agrees with Naituku as the performance by the team was historical and attracted a lot of talk about Fiji. "Potential visitors to our shores will certainly start asking where this paradise Fiji is and it is a plus for tourism," Wong said. "It brands our country." [Wong]said people would be logging on to the internet to find out more about Fiji and this was an advantage of performing in rugby whether it be in sevens or 15s. "It may be late to notice a surge in tourists as a result of the game in the next couple of months but it would surely show next year," Wong said.

Former FVB CEO Bill Gavoka who offered similar sentiments said the exposure because of media coverage made a great difference and was a boost for tourism. "We were on the screen in countries like Europe, the British Isles and the USA which are key markets here so it will bring in positive benefits for tourism," said Gavoka.

Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party spokesperson Peceli Kinivuwai said the team's performance was excellent and brought a ray of sunshine to rainy Fiji. He said despite the political and social uncertainty, the performance by the Flying Fijians made Fiji an attractive destination.

"The team reflected the true spirit of the indigenous Fijian spirit in Nicky Little's insistence to witness the end of the game despite the pain from a medial knee ligament injury he sustained during the match," he said.

"The boys were definitely loyal to the call of duty for the country and we managed to shine as a nation."

Like the SDL, the National Federation Party's Pramod Rae said he was over the moon and speechless about the victory and that the spin off effect of reaching the quarter finals in the World Cup would be more investment, tourists and unity among the people.

Economist Dr Wadan Narsey said the win against Wales showed that Fiji could compete with the "big boys" and what was needed was a level playing field. He said Sunday's game was a mighty achievement as the fields where local players were based was no comparison to what overseas players were used to.

Dr Narsey said such performance showed countries in the Pacific could take part in the Super 14 that could even be hosted in Fiji. He said if that was allowed there would be a massive flow on financial benefits as teams could be billeted in hotels and the game could attract hundreds of media people to broadcast games worldwide. Dr Narsey said the sad part was that many local fans did not expect the Flying Fijians to win against Wales and that some people made a few bucks from bets.

"It's sad that many Fijians did not trust the team. We verbally bashed our Flying Fijians even though the boys showed they had great potential in their fantastic performance," he said.

Dr Narsey said the team had a great chance in their next game at 1am on Monday and that even if they did not win they would still not be disgraced. Without ignoring the coach's hard work Dr Narsey said Tabua made a difference and took the team to a level only experienced 20 years ago. He said overseas based players performed exceptionally and brought guts that blended well into the spirit of the team.

FRU chief executive Ratu Timoci Tavanavanua said their goal had been achieved and that the $2 million spent on the team's preparation and bonus was worth every cent. [Tavanavanua] said although the FRU would want a Pacific team in the Super 14, logistical arrangements needed to be scrutinised.

"Only time would tell and we hope there is something for us in the near future to compete at that level," he said.

Outside half Nicky Little described the win well when he said it made a mockery of money in the sport and modern day rugby considering that players in the Fijian side were just paid $50 a day. [Little] does not know where he'll be this weekend as money would determine that but says "I'll be right behind the boys wherever I am". The thoroughly deserved victory over Wales in Nantes earned the islanders a quarter-final against the Springboks in Marseille that all fans look forward to watching this weekend.

Both Trans-Tasman nations have benefited with the status-quo in Rugby's socio-economic capacity , with their national sides actively featuring Rugby players poached from Pacific islands. While enjoying the fruits of imported players, it is difficult to fathom why the Pacific Island teams of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are yet to recognized as peers, by their colonial cousins.

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