Football Parents Speak Out

The parents of a national wom­en’s footballer say they wit­nessed head coach Christophe Gamel allegedly storm into their Ba home last year and threaten their daughter. Sunil Rao and Tokasa
02 Feb 2019 10:20
Football Parents Speak Out
From left: Tokasa Vua and Sunil Rao, the parents of national women’s footballer Sonali Rao, in Ba on January 31, 2019. Photo: Sheldon Chanel. Inset : Christophe Gamel

The parents of a national wom­en’s footballer say they wit­nessed head coach Christophe Gamel allegedly storm into their Ba home last year and threaten their daughter.

Sunil Rao and Tokasa Vua, the par­ents of defender Sonali Rao, said they felt disrespected by Gamel’s alleged behaviour.

The alleged incident happened as the team was preparing to march into camp for the OFC Women’s Nations Cup.

Gamel allegedly told Rao after she refused to go to camp that he would slap her “in front of her parents” if she did not.

“I witnessed him tell my daughter: you want me to slap you right in front of your parents,” Rao said.

“I was caught by surprise and felt very bad. He just opened the door and came inside; it was very insulting.

“I have never once slapped my daughter and if the coach ever does it, I will take him to court.”

Rao and Vua confirmed that wom­en’s head coach, Marika Rodu, was also present during the alleged inci­dent.

They believe Gamel would not have treated players in his native France, or any other European or Western coun­try, like he allegedly did players in Fiji.

They feel Gamel was taking advan­tage of the Fijian players’ culture of respect.

SUNsports spoke to more parents yesterday, who all said they were hesitant to send their daughters to the national team after learning about Gamel’s alleged behaviour.

This is the first time the parents have spoken out since Fiji SUN reported Gamel’s alleged bullying of the wom­en’s players on January 26.

He has also been in the spotlight for allegedly assaulting five national Un­der-23 men’s players – which the coach has denied doing.

Gamel was sent an email and text message yesterday seeking his re­sponse to the allegations, along with a request for a face-to-face interview.

He did not respond by the time this edition went to press.

Questions sent to Fiji Football Asso­ciation (FFA) president Rajesh Patel also remain unanswered.

However, in an earlier statement, Patel said they have not looked into the allegations made by the women because no complaints have been lodged.

But one parent said she could not un­derstand why Fiji FA was waiting for complaints when the allegations were so serious.

Akisi Lewavo, the mother of nation­al goalkeeper Ateca Tuwai, felt Fiji FA was not grasping the seriousness of the issue and lacked empathy for the players.

“We are ready to take this up either with Police or the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre if Fiji FA does not act soon,” she said.

The coach is alleged to have called Tu­wai ‘pathetic’ and ‘not good enough’ at half-time during Fiji’s OFC Women’s Nations Cup semi-final against Papua New Guinea.

“I am also very disappointed with Rodu. How could he just stand there and (allegedly) do nothing when the coach was (allegedly) ill-treating our players?” Lewavo said.

“My husband was ready to go and confront them both (Gamel and Rodu) in Ba but I stopped him.”

Rodu also did not respond to ques­tions by the time this edition went to press.

Lewavo’s frustration at Fiji FA’s ap­parent lack of action is echoed by Se­iena Marama, the mother of national women’s forward Koleta Likuculacu­la.

“My daughter told me that in New Caledonia, Gamel gave them very big swear words and it made feel bad for her,” she said.

“I think if he continues like this then we have to change the coach because the girls are afraid to go back to camp.”

Tavaita Rasaku, the mother of na­tional women’s defender Mereoni Tora, said it was the first time she had seen her daughter being afraid to at­tend training.

“She has been playing since primary school but this coach’s (alleged) be­haviour is killing her passion,” Ra­saku said.

Another parent, Meredoni Marama­nidranu, whose daughter Veniana Ranadi plays defender for the national women’s team, said she was disap­pointed nothing was being done about the coach.

She said it was unbecoming of a na­tional coach to behave in the manner Gamel had allegedly done.

Gamel and Rodu did not respond to any allegations by the time this edi­tion went to press.

-Edited by Osea Bola

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