Support the boys

Geraldine Panapasa | Sunday, June 4, 2017
NEGATIVE criticism is often the recurring reaction from diehard fans of rugby sevens whenever the national team does not perform up to expectation at international tournaments.

Before, during and after major tournaments, critics are always on the lookout to pinpoint faults and errors in the game plan and its execution on the rugby pitch. Some of those criticisms are constructive in that they often help the team's management identify weaknesses as well as map out strategies to improve their performance.

However, when the criticisms are taken to another level and become personal attacks on players and management, and their families, that is another issue altogether and one that needs an urgent change in mindsets and attitudes.

In an effort to take a strong stand against personal cyber-attacks and social media profanity, national sevens halfback Jerry Tuwai has openly pleaded with Fijians to show respect for the players, management and their families after experiencing first-hand the wrath of being degraded and shamed on social media whenever the team did not perform well.

On our front page today, Tuwai said foul language, criticisms and swears directed at the national team and their families caused a lot of hurt.

These rugby players, management and their families, according to Tuwai, have made a lot of sacrifices, challenges, and pushed through injuries and pain to represent the country at an international tournament.

"When Fiji wins, we all win but when Fiji loses, only the players lose and we feel that because we are not supported or thanked or praised for playing tough matches. We feel the pain of our injuries and muscle tear or broken bones and it is even worse when our people back home criticise us and swear at us and our families on social media," he said.

He then asks, "What have we done wrong to deserve this?" It is a question that rightly challenges the community to reflect on their own morals, values and upbringing. Some critics have set their expectations for the team so high that when the end result is not favourable, their frustrations get the better of them. Social media has become the go-to-place to vent those frustrations at the players, management and in most unfortunate cases, their families. It will hurt the players, it will hurt their families and it will affect their confidence. Criticism is of course part and parcel of everyday life but when it comes to sevens rugby, the criticisms will be tenfold simply because of the high standard set by the national team — winning gold at the pinnacle of all sporting competitions, the Olympic Games.

That achievement, among other notable accomplishments, has created a perception that we are the best of the best in this sporting genre and no matter the make-up of players in the national 7s team, we can win … all the time. That perception needs to change.

There are many people who still believe in the team and their potential in sevens rugby. They know Rome wasn't built in a day and our great Olympians were not born overnight. It takes a lot of hard work, determination and commitment to make Fiji great, to put Fiji on the map when it comes to sevens rugby. We have done that many times before and we can do it again.

Support our boys, no matter the outcome.

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