Baber lauds Fijians’ love

Fiji men’s 7s head coach Gareth Baber. Picture: FILE

By setting the record as the second rugby coach to win the Olympics rugby 7s gold medal, Welshman Gareth Baber is heading home for a well-deserved rest and relaxation after the Japan Olympics victory on Wednesday.

The former Hong Kong coach who has not seen his family for seven months took on social media after the win to thank Fijians across the globe.

“To all the people in Fiji, thank you very much for believing in us,” Baber said from the games village after guiding Fiji to a 27- 12 victory against New Zealand.

It was revenge also for Baber after the Kiwis denied him the Commonwealth Games medal at the Gold Coast in Australia two years ago.

“Thank you for your support. It has been pretty much done for the people of Fiji and everything you are going through at the moment.”

In Fiji, jobs had been lost, loved ones died, families separated from each other, and those not vaccinated were denied entry to public services, transportation and employment.

The players and Baber had been separated from their families for about seven months to stay focused on the Olympics.

All these difficulties, Baber said, was a weapon for his players in Japan.

“It was part of our foundation for what we did in the past three days.”

With the pandemic cancelling sports in Fiji for months, Baber’s men did not start well and looked sluggish against Japan in the first match. But with a mixture of unknowns, star players such as Semi Radradra and the leadership of the best sevens player to date in the world, Jerry Tuwai, Baber stayed on course to set fireworks on Fijian skies on Wednesday night, after winning the gold medal.

He departed for Wales yesterday while local-based players return home.

“We are pretty tired. The players are good. There are a couple of injuries but they are in good form. The boys are coming back and I am heading to the UK to my family after seven months.

“We have learnt a lot and the players have developed and some playing international rugby which six months ago they would not dream of. We are proud of what we have achieved, and this is to be remembered and savoured. For everybody back in Fiji, thank you for your support and your love. Vinaka.”

His predecessor Ben Ryan was among the first to congratulate the team.

“And a word on Gareth Baber. I know more than most the pressure he will have been on. Hard to explain to non-Fijians, but it would have been huge and he has done dealt with it brilliantly. Amazing job,” Ryan said in his message.

New Zealand won the silver medal while Argentina took the bronze.

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