‘Fiji’s time’: How world media reacted to the men’s Olympic sevens finals

Fiji players emotional after the win. Photo: AFP

Comment – Surely, we’re all Fijian supporters now.

Yes, we’d have loved New Zealand to have won the men’s sevens gold, but deep down we like the Fijians out here in amateur Olympic watching land.

They look great. They pray after every try. They have cool jerseys.

They were down to fly to Tokyo on a commercial flight filled with fish but eventually were found a standard flight (US basketballers fly on private planes!).

They trained in a garage turned into a gym. They seem humble.

And, of course, our hearts are going out to Fiji as it deals with Covid-19. For the record, sadly, that’s 1057 new cases of the coronavirus and 12 more deaths in the past 24 hours.

But for a few moments, Fiji was able to put aside the dreadful pandemic and focus on the joy of the country winning.

And they had won well, beating New Zealand 27-12; it had felt as if was all over in the first two minutes.

The Fiji Times today splashed the result across its front page, proclaiming ‘We Did It’.

Editor-in-chief Fred Wesley wrote as fireworks lit up the sky and Fijians celebrated.

“There can be no doubts about the impact of tonight’s victory on the people of our nation.

“Staring at a blank wall since April. With the number of Covid-19 cases going out of hand, Fijians finally had something to feel good about.

“We were united as a nation.

“The fireworks and cheers, the screams of joy and laughter, they all signified a sense of appreciation, and reflected how much this game means to us as a nation.”

On the Fiji Village website, sevens pushed aside Covid-19 for a while at least.

It led this morning with Fiji coach Gareth Baber dedicating the win to all the Fijians who have been suffering.

Separately, his wife Danielle said she had not seen him smile that much in a long time. She said he and the team were feeling the pressure to perform.

And Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has been tweeting his joy.

“That win was worth more than gold. Your love for this game, for each other, and for your country has shown again that when Fijians unite, we can achieve greatness – no matter what the world throws our way.”

In one of Fiji’s hard-pressed hospitals, work came to a standstill to watch the game. Thankfully, there were no emergencies, the manager said.

In New Zealand, media outlets have been celebrating the win for Fiji – and yes commiserating with the New Zealand team, while looking forward to the women’s tournament which starts today.

But really this is probably Fiji’s time.

And it is an international story.

Fiji’s feat of back-to-back gold medals in the sevens, one in the middle of the pandemic, has gone global.

The Guardian said the Fijians had “stunned” New Zealand and said there were tears in the Pacific nation after the emphatic win.

But the must-read is from Fiji’s former coach Ben Ryan, who had taken Fiji to their first gold at Rio.

“They have smashed the glass ceilings that so often exist in developing countries. Babies born now and in the future will be named Jerry after the team’s captain, Jerry Tuwai – the only survivor of the Rio 2016 winning team and now Fiji’s only double gold medalist.

“Depending on their local fan base, others in the squad will have domestic pets and taxis given their moniker. No doubt, civil honours and other awards will follow too. Bridges, schools and roads – they will all have the sunshine of this victory on Wednesday shone on to them and named in its honour and to remember their deeds.

“Why? Pride in the team, in the nation. Belonging. The team all come from the people. When I say that, I mean they often have worked or work and certainly live among them.”

There’s much more, but you really should read it on The Guardian.

Then there was the South China Morning Post which focused on how long many in the team had been away from families and international competition.

“Only Jerry Tuwai was in both their Olympic campaigns, with the rest of the squad featuring new faces, seven of whom had not previously been to a series.”

Maybe the Indian Express had the best headline to sum it all up: ‘Gold in Tokyo, glitter in Fiji.’

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