Fiji Sports | NEWS

Shine a Light: Keeping Sports and Rugby Clean

Victim's father, Josua Sade said: “It is sad that people still discriminate using race. The Fijian Constitution clearly states that we are all Fijians, and for someone, who is supposed to uphold the rule of law, to make such racial remarks, is unacceptable.
20 Mar 2022 19:00
Shine a Light: Keeping Sports and Rugby Clean
Josua Sade (left), with his son, Malakai Tobau, at their home in Davuilevu on March 15, 2022.

Rugby is the only thing that Malakai Tobau has ever known. He started playing the sport at the age of nine.

Last Saturday (12/03/2022) was the first time that he felt belittled on the rugby field. A Police officer had allegedly uttered racial remarks against Mr Tobau during a heated rugby match.

Mr Tobau was the hooker for the Barbarians team. The Police and Barbarians team met in the finals of the Fun Flavour Super 7s series at Churchill Park in Lautoka last Saturday.

Police won the tournament thrashing Barbarians 27-7.

Such incidents involving racial discrimination are sometimes experienced by Fijian rugby players based overseas.

These incidents are often highlighted in the international media.

But for the first time, a similar incident that occurred during a local tournament went viral on social media.

It is alleged that Keponi Paul of the Police team had called out Mr Tobau’s links to Solomon Islands.

O iko, luveni kai Solomoni” (you, son of a Solomon Islander), were the words allegedly uttered by Mr Paul.

The alleged incident happened minutes before the half time whistle. Mr Tobau did not play in the second half.

But the racial slur was enough to make him feel disheartened and disappointed. He left the ground for their team’s camp before the tournament ended.

A Facebook post by Mr Tobau’s brother, Aliki Bia, highlighting the incident had gone viral, attracting more than 1000 likes and shares. Mr Bia is a former FBC journalist.

At least three spectators who witnessed the incident confirmed that the alleged racist comments were made.

Several attempts were made by Shine A Light to get a comment from Mr Paul. All were unsuccessful.

Mr Tobau is of Solomon ancestral links. His father, Josua Sade, is from the Solomon Islands and mother from Tailevu.

Fiji has been Mr Tobau’s home for 29 years. His father was born in Fiji. Mr Tobau’s grandfather had come to Fiji from the Solomons.

“I felt I was being racially discriminated against because of where I am from. I was also very emotional because I thought of my parents,” he said.

Commissioner of Police Force Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho declined to make a comment.

He said he wouldn’t comment on something that he did not witness. It is understood that Police had interviewed Mr Tobau on Wednesday.

Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) chief executive officer John O’Connor said the Union has a disciplinary process procedure for such allegations if a complaint was lodged.

However, it is understood that no complaint was lodged by the victim with the FRU.

Mr O’Connor said their operations team had already met the management of the Police team to investigate the issue. He also condemned the use of such racial remarks.

“We do not condone, nor tolerate such racist statements uttered in the rugby field,” he said.

“Rugby is a tough sport, and we need to learn to respect each other.”

A FATHER’S SENTIMENTS

Words cut deep, an emotional Mr Sade told Shine a Light. It is better to punch someone, because words scar you for life, he said.

Mr Sade recalled how his ancestors had come to Fiji to help build Suva City to what it is today.

“It is sad that people still discriminate using race. The Fijian Constitution clearly states that we are all Fijians, and for someone, who is supposed to uphold the rule of law, to make such racial remarks, is unacceptable,” Mr Sade said.

The 61-year-old hopes that there would be no repetition of such incidents.

LIFE OF RUGBY

Mr Tobau has been playing rugby at a young age.

He attended Queen Victoria School where his love for the sport grew.

He played in the annual Fiji Secondary Schools Deans rugby competition for Vulinituraga. In 2012, he captained the Nasinu rugby league team against the Ratu Kadavulevu School team.

He played in the Under-20 teams for Nadi and Naitasiri, for Tailevu in 2019, and now trains with the Suva and Barbarians team.

“All my teammates know that I am from the Solomons, but no one treated me or spurred racial comments against me,” he said.

“Never was I treated indifferent at QVS. My brother and I attended QVS, with sons of chiefs and other Fijian boys, and we got along very well. They all knew that we were Solomon Islanders.”

Mr Tobau understands rugby is a physical game but insists that it’s no excuse for racial comments to be uttered to any player or official.

He hopes that no other rugby player faces the same incident.

OVERSEAS EXAMPLES

Fijian players based overseas often bear the brunt of racial remarks.

  •  Nemani Nadolo (Crusaders winger) – On more than one occasion was “hurt” by abusive comments. In the most recent incident, he was verbally abused in a bar while with his teammates. The degrading and derogatory racial slurs had affected the Crusaders winger.
  •  Albert Tuisue [INSET] (London Irish) – The Flying Fijians flanker had reported a case of racial abuse and threatening messages which he received on his Instagram account following the London Irish 52-27 loss to New Castle in the Gallagher Premiership Round 18 clash in May last year.
  • Sake Aca (Christchurch rugby player) – He and his family were taunted with several racist remarks. In one of the rugby  matches he was called a “black c***, an idiot and the use of the F word. The emotional impact was such that he requested his coach to take him off the field. He was “hurt inside”. “I can’t feel it, I can’t handle it, I couldn’t focus”, he was reported saying to Stuff.

WHAT FORMER RUGBY PLAYERS SAY

All these racial remarks were condemned by the respective clubs, players, and World Rugby.

Former Flying Fijian rep Ratu Ilaitia Tuisese said rugby was not a sport to utter racial slur.

“If those words were really uttered, then it would be really sad. You are not supposed to belittle any person,” he said.

Ratu Ilaitia hopes this is an iso- lated incident and there is no repetition.

“I hope it does not affect other tournaments because the game of rugby has gone to another level.”

Fijian rugby legend Seremaia Bai condemned the use of racial slur, labelling such remarks as “unacceptable”.

“It was quite disappointing. We need to emphasise clean rugby. Sport is supposed to bring people together.”

Mr Bai is the founder and coach of the Eastern Saints rugby club. He stressed the importance of the rugby values.

“Rugby players need to understand these values and live by them. It does not matter if it is local or international rugby, you live by these values.

“There are also philosophies of the club that you play for. Players need to abide by them.”

Having integrity and respecting opponents and your teammates on and off the field is paramount, he added.

Feedback: ivamere.nataro@fijisun.com.fj 



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