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The Fijian Love of  Rugby

Don’t worry, this isn’t a blog solely aimed at die-hard rugby fans. It’s more a deeper look at a portion of Fijian culture that isn’t ceremonies, national dress or the island’s famous Kava. Rugby is just as important as these to people across these islands and here’s why…

Joining the projects in Fiji means you get access to some amazing local customs. The Sevu Sevu is the main one for us. It is sort of an initiation for all newcomers to the village lead by the chief. Traditional clothes are worn, rituals performed, Kava drunk and after all of it you are welcomed to the village. For westerners, traditions like this might be a bit intimidating and you’d be forgiven for thinking so. However it is an experience you’d be foolish to miss, even if you had the option.

One thing westerners do understand is one of the world’s global languages; sports. Rugby may not be the most popular activity around the world, where football probably takes that crown, but a love for sport and competition is transferable whatever the game. That love for a sport is engrained in Fiji, seemingly just as much as Kava and the Sevu Sevu.

The Pacific Island nations are legendary in the rugby world, bringing a flare, love of playing, physicality and athleticism to proceedings that few nations around the world can match. Of those things, the love of playing is the key one.

People of the south pacific are perfectly bred rugby players. Everyone is tall, incredibly strong and powerful, fast and explosive – no wonder these nations provide the most enjoyment to spectators and are mentioned in almost hushed tones by rugby faithfuls worldwide.

It’s only when you visit Fiji that you realise that rugby goes far deeper than just a passion for the game though. Along with local cultures, traditions and Christianity, the sport is revered, preached, adored and, to a great degree, seen as holy by the island’s inhabitants.

It is impossible to walk down the street without seeing matches being played on the television sets of cafés and restaurants. Without seeing young lads passing a ball to each other as they jog their way to school. Without hearing the cries of joy and frustration emanating from living rooms as Fiji or another south pacific team (they all support each other just as much as their local teams) win or lose a game against the world’s quote-un-quote ‘heavyweights’ of rugby.

The case can be made that Fijians don’t care about the score, don’t care about the win or the loss. They care about playing a good game, watching a fun game or cheering on their teams whilst being amongst the many generations of their family.

At Frontier’s home stay in Fiji’s capital of Suva, the patriarch of the family, Master, is surrounded by sons, daughters, grandsons and in-laws to watch the Canada 7s tournament on TV. The love of the entire experience that rugby provides is engrained in Fijians from birth.

It’s about the competition, the athleticism, the fun of playing and watching, the pleasure in sharing it with your family and wider community village.

I knew before coming to Fiji that it was a great rugby nation, nestled in an ocean that is littered with rugby nations. Australia and New Zealand love the sport, for sure, but it’s only when you set foot on Fijian soil that you realise rugby is not a sport to these communities. It’s Fijian culture, the same way as the Sevu Sevu or Kava.

Rugby may not be everyone’s cup of tea (I’m biased because I grew up loving it) but learning new cultures is what the great experience of travelling is all about and everyone should soak up as much of it as they can. It just so happens that in Fiji, rugby is that culture.

By Guy Bezant - Fiji Operational Support Coordinator

Frontier runs conservationdevelopmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

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