Samoa’s champion Sevens team is doing far more than just winning titles, Jon Geddes discovers
THEY are the struggling rugby team made up of taxi drivers and village farmers which has revitalised the small Pacific nation of Samoa and given its people new hope following the massive devastation wreaked by last September’s deadly tsunami.
The giant-killing Samoan sevens side has had such an impact after being crowned 2010 world champions that Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi declared a public holiday last Monday to honour the players’ achievements.
And 5000 fans descended on Faleolo International Airport at 1am to give the team a hero’s welcome home.
The joyous scenes across Samoa are in stark contrast to the heartbreaking images of human tragedy nine months ago when the natural disaster killed 143 people and flattened entire villages.
Mr Malielegaoi told Footy Central the team’s triumph had boosted the whole country as it continues to rebuild after the tsunami.
‘‘ I am very proud we have been able to achieve this distinction,’’ Mr Malielegaoi said. ‘‘But what is more important is the incentive that it will create for our young sportsmen to try to emulate the successes which these boys have been able to achieve.’’
He said the team’s victory was the greatest sporting moment for a country with just 193,000 people.
The rugby minnows — crowned the kings of sevens over heavyweights such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and England — consist of part-timers who are now back earning their livings in the towns and villages around Samoa. Some of them arrived in their cabs for the welcome home press conference.
‘‘ Most of them are amateurs, but when it comes to rugby the six weeks before they leave they are really committed to the task ahead,’’ coach Stephen Betham said.
As a reward for topping the IRB world rankings, the players will each receive $9410 from the Government and sponsors. Captain Lolo Lui suggested he would rather the PM gave them some land.
The squad was in Rotorua preparing for the South Pacific Games when news came through that the tsunami had hit. It has provided them with extra motivation ever since.
‘‘ That played in the back of their minds,’’ Betham said.
‘‘ That really spurred us to win the gold medal and it carried on from there. The boys have done it for the nation.’’
After arriving in Samoa, the players went to a special section of the airport to say prayers with a senior Methodist Church minister.
And for the hour-long trip on the team bus to the capital Apia, villagers lined the roadside to cheer the players.
Many burnt lanterns, some brought out Christmas decorations, others had plates of homemade food for the team.
‘‘ When we arrived we were really appreciative and really happy as the people showed their feelings,’’ said star back Mikaele Pesamino, who was voted the IRB’s World Sevens Player of the Year.
The sentiment of the nation was captured by Koreti Aiono, who greeted the idols by singing Samoan ballads with other female members of her Fasitoouta village.
‘‘ This is for everyone, for the nation,’’ she said. ‘‘After the tsunami, this brings everyone up. We are all united with one spirit.’’
The country came to a halt on the public holiday as the Royal Samoan Police Band led the team in a march down Apia’s main street. When the players performed their traditional war dance, the Siva Tau, in the grounds of the parliament, the whole country
seemed to reverberate.
The smiles on the faces of the locals gave reason for optimism about the future.
But a trip around the areas worst hit by the tsunami revealed that while the atmosphere is tranquil, a lot of painstaking work still needs to be done to help the locals get back on their feet.
As building work goes on, crosses stand as memorials to the victims among the upturned cars and debris from destroyed homes.
Aggie Grey, who works at the legendary Aggie Grey’s Hotel in Apia founded by her grandmother in 1934, said her country had a long way to go.
‘‘ But Samoan people are very resilient,’’ Grey said.
‘‘ Even after what had happened they got stuck in two days later and didn’t wait around for the aid.’’
Grey said the team’s win had lifted spirits.
‘‘ They are the talk of the town,’’ she said. ‘‘There is hope for the Samoan people now, especially for the young kids who want to be rugby players,’’ she said.
SOURCE: Rugby Central (dailytelegraph.com.au)25 June, 2010 permalink
The Samoa team at the 2010 Expo Shanghai China has had a lot of help from Pacific Pulse in helping to promote the great job the team is doing for Samoa at the Expo to the outside world.
The Pacific Pulse is the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) Online News Circular. It has extensively featured the Samoa Team and Booth in its Expo News.
This week's issue gives a brief look at the members that make up the Private Sector part of the combined Samoa Team.
Following is the excerpt from Pacific Pulse for this week:
Taking a Break
Private sector representatives of the popular Samoa booth Patricia Kolhase and Litia Hudspeth take a coffee break in front of the Pacific Pavilion during their shift. Samoa's honey has become popular with the visitors to the Pavilion as well as the coconut soap and oil. The ladies are monitoring sales at the Pavilion of retail items from Samoa and advising the business sector back home of that best to send to China for sale at the Pacific Pavilion.
Samoa Tourism Authority's new Australia Market Representative, AdPar Avion of Sydney has truly brought home their dedication to boost Australian tourism travel to Samoa, by literally...bringing it home.
Reprpesentatives from the newly appointed Market Representative agency flew to Samoa this week to present to the local tourism industry how the Samoa Tourism Authority will 'go all out' to bring the Austalian Tourists to Samoa's sandy shores.
With a 'FaaSAMOA, it's our way' approach, STA Australia encourages teamwork with the local industry to achieve the strategies it will put in place.
Michael Riddington from the STA Australia team puts it simply: "we are going to make people want to come to (to Samoa) because it stands for something more."
Awareness is the key and STA believes that the more that people are aware of the destinaton and is the key features, the more those people will make informed decisions to visit Samoa.
With the combined ability to offer expert advice on destination representation, pitch competitive sales and marketing, inform media and maintain good public relations, provide research and creative development, the team is confident it will be able to reach if not exceed its self set target in increasing Australia's outbound tourism to Samoa.
Michael Riddington (Trade & Marketing), Adele Leathan (Trade & Marketing) and Peter Sereno (PR/Media/Events & Meetings) from the STA Australia team were in Apia as part of the Authority's plans to ultimately to take Samoa's destination marketing efforts in Australia to the next level.16 June, 2010 permalink
"It's looking pretty good again - we did experience a lull in demand (post tsunami), but that was to be expected, " he says.
Ula says feedback from suppliers has been positive following recent marketing campaigns, the re-opening of some key properties and support from Kiwis keen to contribute to the country's recovery after last year's tsunami.
Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa, which re-opened last month with new fales, re-built and extended ocean view and presidential fales, an ocean view spa and a brand-new over-water restaurant is one of the key properties to re-open, says Ula. And after a raft of difficulties, not least the tsunami and a fire that all but destroyed months of work, Apia's Tanoa Tusitala Hotel is set for re-opening on 1 July, he adds.
The word from wholesalers is that the recovery has started to 'kick in' well, ahead of the winter peak. "Samoa Tourism is really active now, and it's all back to normal," said one.
Ula agrees, saying that the NTO is 'releasing and planning campaigns' with key wholesalers right up to Sep.
Wholesalers says that interest from the Kiwi market is picking up, in part, because people recognise that going for a holiday will help in the country's economic recovery. "They know what's happened there and want to put something back into Samoa," said a wholesaler. "We still see it as a desirable destination and we'll be giving it a push along where we can," said another.
Source: Travel Today; Tuesday 15 June 201015 June, 2010 permalink
Samoa has welcomed to its Booth in the Pacific Pavillion at the Expo 2010 Shanghai China, its one millionth visitor. According to reports from the Samoa Team in China, the number of visitors to the Samoa booth had increased beyond expectation and on Friday 04th June 2010, the 1 millionth visitor was excitedly welcomed in by the Team showering the lucky individual with various gifts.10 June, 2010 permalink
Joanne Clarkson, a single mother of two boys, said the network will be faced with many challenges. “There is a few things we need to do this year and it takes considerate effort of the network for it to happen,” she said. Ms Clarkson called on 21 member countries present in Samoa for the 7th Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police Women’s Advisory Network meeting to “come together and work together.”
“The biggest challenge is to focus on the strategic plan and this is the road map to improving the way things are done,” Ms Clarkson said.
Ms Clarkson said she was honored to be elected.
Sharing experiences is one of the important activities in order for the members of the network to understand their purpose and drive.
Former chair, Sergeant Siripa Uelese-Tuafale said she was grateful for the opportunity to serve. She thanked everyone who supported her. “Be the hope to shine where there is darkness for all the women in policing,” she said.
Mrs. Tuafale said the conference will be hosted next year in PNG. The three-day conference’s theme is ethics and integrity.
Source: Samoa Observer (www.samoaobserver.ws)05 June, 2010 permalink
“We are completely overwhelmed by the support and the welcome from our people,” Manager Tausa Faamaoni Lalomilo told the Weekend Observer. “We were overwhelmed by the welcome in Auckland. There was so much support from our people there. Now we’ve arrived to this welcome in Samoa and it’s much more overwhelming.
“The solidarity among our people to welcome us has been really humbling. We are extremely grateful.” Tausa said the challenge for the players is to survive the next few days as Samoans look to shower their heroes with reception after reception. “It’s going to be tough but enjoyable I’m sure,” said the Manager.
Upon arrival at Faleolo, the team was ushered to the Multipurpose Lounge where a church service was held. Prime Minister and Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi was among a host of officials present to welcome the team. From there, the players boarded a bus where they were transported to Apia.
People of all ages lined the streets just to catch a glimpse of the boys. Despite the ungodly hour, villages along the road to the airport rolled out the red carpet welcome. The bus regularly stopped in villages for players to greet their supporters.
The procession to Apia was long. For example, when the bus transporting the players reached Leulumoega, some vehicles were still struggling to move from the airport. But the long queue did not matter. Many people were prepared to wait. A good number of them celebrated well into daylight today.
Source: Samoa Observer (www.samoaobserver.ws)04 June, 2010 permalink
Cabinet has approved a public holiday to be preserved on Monday 7th June to celebrate our World Champions and their achievement.
Coach Betham and his teamare set to arrive into the country on Saturday at 0100hrs. The team will then taken be taken to the Multi purpose Fale and then escorted by police after to the Rugby Union Headquarters at Malifa
The programme for Monday starts at 9.30am at Tiafau Mulinuu.