ENTERTAINMENT | Island News

Discovering Fiji’s rugbymen in France

Source: AMBAFRANCE-FJ.ORG At 32, this Fiji rugbyman is a professional player contracted with the Montluçon Rugby Club. He started rugby competitively when he was 15. In 2007, he signed his
06 May 2012 11:05

After match function with Ephraim Taukafa Orene, Aii Saimone Taumaipeau, Ratu Aseri Latianara, Gabriel Lovobalavu and Jerry Tamanisau in Toulon.

Source: AMBAFRANCE-FJ.ORG

At 32, this Fiji rugbyman is a professional player contracted with the Montluçon Rugby Club. He started rugby competitively when he was 15. In 2007, he signed his first professional contract in the French city of Lyon. Later on, he joined the Montluçon team where he currently plays as winger and centre.
Ratu Aseri Qoro Latianara, TuiNoi as he is called, hails from the chieftain clan in Navosa. He has a twin brother and two sisters. When asked about Ratu Aseri’s childhood, his mother remembers him fondly as “a quiet child, very obedient, who listened to what you said. He was also a real sportsperson. Now, he is very helpful, very sociable…a gentleman, I would say. Always willing to help his friends or look after the family. Also, he looks after himself well, he is very disciplined.”
When the family heard that he had secured a contract to play in France, she says “we were so overjoyed, so happy that he was going to achieve his goal! […] We were not afraid of the long distance, because there is technology. We can stay in touch with internet or phone. He usually calls once a week.”
Sadly, two weeks after he left for France, his father passed away. “The club allowed him to come back for the funeral, that was nice of them”, says his mother. “After that, he returned and started playing professionally. We are all really proud of him!”
Montluçon is a town of 35,000 inhabitants, located in the centre of France, in Auvergne. Its rugby club, the Montluçon Rugby Club, was created in 2005, when the “Ilets Sports Montluçonnais” and the “Stage Montluçonnais” merged. The club started in Fédérale 2 and edged it’s way into Fédérale 1 in 2006 and 2008. It is still playing at this level and is in 5th place this season. The colours of the team are “Black and White”.
Here is the exclusive interview with Ratu Aseri Latianara, who accepted to answer the questions of the French Embassy for its section “Discovering Fiji Rugbymen in France”:

Q: Which part of Fiji are you from originally? Where did you grow up?
A: I am originally from the village of Korolevu in the province of Nadroga/ Navosa. I grew up in the capital of Fiji which is Suva until the age of 9. Then my family moved down to Nadi in the western part of Fiji. And I have lived there ever since.
Q: When did you start playing rugby?
A: I started playing rugby at the age of 15 in 1994 when I just got into high school.

Q: When did you start playing professionally? What clubs have you played in? Tell us briefly about your rugby career. (Your progress through to where you are now)
A: In 2007 then I got my first full professional contract in France for Lyon Olympique Universitaire.

Q: What was the “triggering factor” that made you decide to go to France? How did you manage to find (contact) a club in France?
A: I just kind of saw most of the players going overseas because the money was good. And with the overseas contracts there a lot of benefits that comes with it. You are well looked after especially medically. And with the sport like rugby, there are a lot of risk of injuries. And playing provincial rugby in Fiji, we weren’t going to make a living from the money we made every week and medically we have to pay out of our own pocket if we had got injured. My father kept telling me to get an overseas contract. I managed to get a contract in France through a friend whom I played against at provincial level in Fiji. He had also played in France and knew a French agent who was looking for players to recruit and I was fortunate to be one of those players.

Q: What has changed in your life since you started playing professionally?
A: Since I started playing professionally there were a few changes that took place in my life, and one of the changes was preparing myself for the season. I had to put in extra hard work. I had to manage my time carefully. There was no more “Fiji time”. Time management was important.

Q: Did you find it easy, as a newcomer, to settle in with the rest of your team mates? To settle in France?
A: I still remember my first day in France I was missing home a lot. It did take time for me to settle down with my team mates as they all spoke French. I had to get used to the life style in France. It was completely different from home. The language barrier made it hard for me to settle in quicker with my team mates. But it was okay after a month or two.

Q: When you first arrived in France, what shocked or surprised you the most?
A: I would say…the size of the airport compared to the one back at home. And the number of security guards with guns. Last but not least the cold weather; the temperature was just dropping down to minus. It was the first time I had seen snow too.

Q: What do you think are the biggest differences between living in Fiji and living in France?
A: For me, I would say TIME and WEATHER. Everything in France was all about time. And the weather is just ridiculous. It is way too cold. In Fiji everything runs really slow and the weather was just nice and hot. It was never too cold.

Q: Is your family with you in France? If not, how often do you visit them?
A: No unfortunately they are back in Fiji. I visit my family at the end of every season. If there was a long break in the festive season then I visit them.

Q: How do you stay in touch with your loved ones back home in Fiji?
A: I get in touch with my loved ones through the internet or by phone.

Q: Why did you decide to come and play in France?
A: Honestly, I was told that the money was good. That’s why I decided to come over to France and also because I had played in New Zealand and Australia and the conditions were not good. Also I have always wanted to travel to Europe and this was an opportunity for me to do that.

Q: What do you like most about France?
A: The food.

Q: What do you miss the most?
A: My family, the Fijian food and the sunny weather.

Q: Most memorable match moment as a player?
A: Playing for Nadi in 2002 and defending the Fairbrother Sullivan Trophy from Tailevu. And the other one would be, playing for Lyon Olympique Universitaire in the game against Tana Umaga’s Toulon side in 2007. Played against a lot of well known rugby players and meeting up with Tana Umaga after the game.

Q: Most memorable moment as a spectator?
A: Watching the Fiji 7s team beat New Zealand in the Hong Kong 7s final 2012.

Q: Favourite rugby player?
A: Jason Robinson

Q: Favourite team?
A: New Zealand

Q: How are you coping with your fame as an overseas professional rugby player?
A: With my families support and my mother’s constant advice and guidance, I am always well grounded.

Q: When your overseas rugby career ends, would you consider returning to play for Fiji?
A: Well, I speak for myself; I would really love to play for my country if given any chance. It would be an honour for me. That would be another achievement earned.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
A: Hopefully settled down and working here in overseas

Q: Who inspires you the most?
A: My parents and late grandparents (father’s side).

Q: We hear many sports people have a lucky charm (special shorts, etc) or even a special ritual they use/do before a big game; do you have one? If yes, what is it?
A: I don’t really believe in lucky charms. But I do believe in God. I do pray before and after a rugby match.



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