Super performance: A win like no other; one to unite all Fijians

Fiji’s Sireli Maqala is pursued by Britain’s Ethan Waddleton in their men’s rugby 7s match at the 2020 Summer Olympics. Picture: AP Shuji Kajiyama

Yes we did it again.

We are now the Olympic champions for the second time.

It was a super performance from a super team.

Against the backdrop of COVID-19 coupled with unprecedented challenges, we once again stood our ground and made it to the pinnacle of sevens rugby on the planet.

Emulating the success of Rio, as the team stood on the podium and were handed their gold medals, it evoked feelings of five years ago when we were crowned rugby 7s Olympi champions for the first time.

But this time around the situation was quite different.

With the pandemic forcing the games to be played without spectators and the mood among fans subdued due to devastating impacts of COVID-19, yet this failed to dampen the spirit of the players as they played their hearts out
and made every Fijian proud.

We could not have asked for anything more.

The players won the game in style and that too by overpowering our old foes, New Zealand, and successively defending the gold medal.

Winning formula

What makes our rugby sevens players different from the rest of the world is their strong belief in God as the ultimate
motivator.

These scenes are a trademark of our team as this is exhibited at the start of the match when we see our players
standing in a huddle laying one hand on the ball raised high in the air, seeking for divine power.

The secret to the win in the final was in Baber’s ability to meticulously map out a plan for the team where he tactically outthought his Kiwi counterpart, and in which he greatly succeeded.

After the first two pool matches, the skeptics had already started speculating on social media of negativities surrounding the team, but little did they know that it was putting everything in one basket, by just winning one game comprehensively.

It was about triumphing overall in a rugby tournament.

The strategy Baber used was to keep the opponents guessing each time and changing around players, and systems of play.

This caught the teams by surprise and by the time they adapted to this, th damage was already done.

There were rookies in the team of Maqala and Wainiqolo, but Baber played his cards right as these players played above expectations and brought glory to the nation.

‘Little Jerry’, the heartbeat of the team, is a phenomenal player with outstanding skill set and his contribution to the team was immense.

However, the players were not short in their achievements as the unity within the team and the teamwork proved to be successful in the end.

New Zealand toiled hard to come back, but whatever the threw at us we nullified with strong defense.

After mediocre performance in the first two pool matches, we never looked back and played with a real sense of purpose to beat other teams.

In the final, the night belonged to us, as the script seemed to be written for Fiji and any other team who came our way would had to settle for second best.

It was a powerful defensive effort from the players.

That’s the way to go if attack wins games then defense wins tournaments.

Baber had hardwired in his players, th concept of game management and discipline, which was evident in the way the team played.

Apparently, their enormous sacrifices paid off.

Special moments

This is a special and most treasured moments for all us including the team as well.

For Baber it is a milestone achievement, as this win is going to add another feather to his cap, as he already has a luminous career as a coach.

Jerry Tuwai, one of the most decorated rugby sevens player, keeps rewriting himself in the history books as the only Fijian player to have won the back to back gold medal.

The debutants in the team were thrown the challenge of taking part in the Olympics and they did exceptionally well in giving their best to be part of this winning team.

With an endless series of accolades for the team after they retained the landmark title, the players will have their own moments to cherish for that stellar performance.

What this means?

It may not be the same homecoming as in 2016, but it means a lot to every Fijian in the midst of this pandemic.

We did not hear of the cheer and screams in the neighborhood and much fanfare right across Fiji because of COVID-19 restrictions, but fans took it the social media to express their adulations.

As is assumed, there will be no wild celebrations because of limitations, but this will provide much hope in adversity for many Fijians who are grappling through the crisis.

This win means a lot to all Fijians as this has come at no better time when our confidence has been battered by the current crisis.

The passion with which our players took the field, and with emotions running high before the match, the players knew what was at stake, why we needed the win and for what reasons we wanted it more than anybody else.

This accomplishment is going to cut across every imaginary boundary line of race, ethnicity, gender and age as it is
going to unite all Fijians in fighting the common enemy of COVID-19.

The win is like no other as it symbolises a lot for Fiji and is a source of inspiration for all of us, that there is light at the end of the tunnel, the sun will shine again and life will return to normal.

We have created history, as this transcends in our life, and if we remain united in our cause and are organised and have a plan, then we can achieve great things.

Our win has taught us lessons of resilience.

It’s more than a win for the fact that it is going to live in the memories of everybody as how under such challenging
circumstances we beat the world.

  • PRANIL RAM is regular contributor to this newspaper and the views expressed are not necessarily shared by this newspaper.

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