It’s Fiji’s time
Oct. 19, 2020 @ 9:45 UTC
Youth development, natural talent and a growing relationship with the Fiji National Sports Commission have Fiji Touch on course for greatness.
The South Pacific island nation of Fiji is a collection of 300 islands spread over an area of 3 million square kilometres. It has a population of 900,0000, with 600,000 people living on the largest island of Viti Levu.
There are two Touch Associations in Fiji, affiliated with Touch Football Fiji (TFF), both based on Viti Levu. The Nadi Touch Rugby Association in the west and the Suva Touch Association covering the central and eastern part of the island. Suva is the capital city of Fiji and is also home to the TFF President Tevita Mau, who recently joined Adam Collins, from the Federation of International Touch (FIT), for an episode of ‘Set of 6’, along with TFF Vice President (West) Rosi Bavon and TFF Secretary Virginia Elo Nauluvula.
The Comps are back
Touch is back in play in Fiji. The Suva Touch Association competition started in mid- September and Rosi Bavon and her husband actually sponsored the first post-COVID-19 lockdown tournament which was played recently in Nadi “The main purpose of sponsoring the event was to generate post-COVID-19 interest in Touch”, said Rosi.
There have been only 32 cases of COVID-19 in Fiji with two deaths. This remarkable success is a testament to the swift action taken by the Fiji government to close the borders at the start of the pandemic. Fiji also has an excellent contract tracing system in place and used the experience gained from dealing with the 2019 measles epidemic to great effect.
Downtime put to good use
TFF President Tevita Mau and his team used the Covid-19 hiatus as an opportunity to plan for the future. It was decided that expanding the player base was a priority for Touch in Fiji. Tevita explained the first step would be “Establishing this year the Nasinu Touch Rugby Association. This is still on the main island. Another area being targeted for 2021 is Lautoka on the western side of Viti Levu”. For the first time, Touch will also be expanded to the second-largest island of Vanua Levu in 2022.
Touch Rugby Fiji style
There is huge potential for the sport of Touch in Fiji. Tevita said “A Fiji National Sports Commission survey found that Touch and volleyball are the two most commonly played sports in the communities. In ‘Touch rugby Fiji style’, there is one touch before the ball is handed over to the opposition. Our challenge is to bring that interest across and expose them to the discipline of six touches”. If people playing this local version of Touch can be tempted to play FIT rules Touch in large numbers Tevita Mau’s dream of Pacific domination could happen. According to Tevita PNG and Samoa are currently the best Pacific teams and “Come 2023 we want to see some changes to the pecking order. We want to be at the top of the mountain.” For what it’s worth, both a World Cup and a Pacific Games are scheduled for 2023.
Another successful strategy of Touch Football Fiji has been to cultivate a good relationship with the Fiji Government. The Fiji National Sports Commission (FNSC) has made funding available for the engagement of a Touch development officer. The FNSC also recently helped to facilitate an online introductory level FIT referee accreditation with FIT Director of Referees Ian Matthew, via zoom. “At the end we were able to accredit 21 referees”, according to Tevita.
Critical to the future success of Touch in all FIT member nations is making the sport of Touch available to young people. According to Virginia Elo Nauluvula, Secretary of Touch Football Fiji, “At present our target market is our youth sector, trying to pull in High School students, teenagers and develop the sport at a young age.” Another pathway for youth development is to cooperate with Fiji Rugby League. “We want to piggyback on what they already have established to ensure that we can get into the school system. That is something we will work towards,” said Tevita.
Youth development has been taken to another level by a group of families who have established the Tahi Touch team, which is affiliated to the Suva Touch Association. The Tahi Touch community actively assist children with activities outside the game such as academic tutoring and “The parents who are involved are also engaged in their development where values and culture are instilled and passed down”, according to Tevita Mau. This is a wonderful example of Touch being a vehicle for positive change in the lives of young people.
Future World beaters?
Fiji is destined for greatness in Touch. If Touch Football Fiji can achieve their plan to grow player numbers at senior and youth level, and can harness the potential crossover of players from ‘Fiji style Touch’, along with cultivating a strong relationship with the Fiji National Sports Commission, that rise to greatness might not be too far off.