As a so­ci­ety, we need to change the phi­los­o­phy of our sports style from a neg­a­tive en­vi­ron­ment to a pos­i­tive one in which most chil­dren can thrive, ben­e­fit from, and sus­tain their par­tic­i­pa­tion in sport

Fiji Sun - - Big Story - A B M Shawkat Ali is a pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Com­puter Science and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Fiji. He is also found­ing di­rec­tor, Cen­tre for Smart Tech­nolo­gies, Dean for the School of Science and Tech­nol­ogy. Pro­fes­sor A B M Shawka

Sport - an ac­tive phys­i­cal in­volve­ment with skill pre­sen­ta­tion in which an in­di­vid­ual or team com­petes against an­other or oth­ers for en­ter­tain­ment.

The per­ceived and ob­jec­tive ben­e­fits for an in­di­vid­ual or group in sports are nu­mer­ous in­clud­ing phys­i­cal, phys­i­o­log­i­cal, and so­cial de­vel­op­ment. With­out any ar­gu­ment we ac­cept sports peo­ple have bet­ter mental health than com­mon peo­ple in any com­mu­nity. This re­al­i­sa­tion was knocked by our an­ces­tors a long time ago in 776 BC when the first an­cient Olympic Games was launched for the peo­ple. The Greek pil­lars are a wit­ness of our mod­ern Olympic his­tory. Since 776 BC to 2016 RIO we have seen many world records, tears and smiles. We have seen new flags as well in the Olympic Sta­dium across the world. Rio 2016 made me emo­tional by giv­ing the op­por­tu­nity to the refugees, I was emo­tional too when a Chi­nese ath­lete asked a young girl ath­lete- ‘Would you marry me?’

A na­tion cel­e­brates a Gold medal

Fi­nally it was un­seen in my 46 years his­tory how a na­tion cel­e­brates a Gold medal from Olympic.

It was a his­tory for Fiji, his­tory for en­tire South Pa­cific due to the only Gold medal has ar­rived in the Pa­cific!

Fi­jians were wait­ing at their in­ter­na­tional air­port in Nadi to wel­come their Gold medal­list from Rio 2016 last Sun­day. Ba­si­cally, they were wait­ing men­tally to wel­come our golden boys from the day when they thrashed our Great Bri­tain broth­ers (I called broth­ers be­cause we have sim­i­lar­ity in our na­tional flags). Hard to ex­press our feel­ings, I was quiet see­ing the vic­to­ri­ous and mighty boys leave the air­port for their wel­com­ing cer­e­mony at Prince Charles Park in Nadi. Our eight-year-old daugh­ter Sah­dia was shout­ing- ‘O my God, Golden boys is close to our home!’ I saw Fi­jians from Nadi air­port to Prince Charles Park stand­ing be­side the road and of­fer­ing love by cheer­ing their Golden boys. Just off the round­about at Na­maka, I found out Fiji Air­ways changed their Flight colour as Gold.

Prime Min­siter stayed close by our team

Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama was wait­ing in the main gate at Prince Charles Park to wel­come our Golden boys. I have never seen a Prime Min­ster to act as he did that Sun­day.

He kept away all his pro­to­col just to stay closer with our boys. Back to me­mory lane, when In­dian Prime Min­is­ter, Mr. Modi came to visit Fiji in 2014. As an in­vited guest in academia field, I found very tight se­cu­rity at The Fiji Na­tional Univer­sity. I told the In­dian Prime Min­is­ter’s se­cu­rity of­fi­cer- “Fiji is a good place. No one would harm your Prime Min­is­ter, don’t worry, and en­joy Fiji”. Im­me­di­ately a ques­tion came to my mind- why does the In­dian Prime Min­is­ter main­tain tight se­cu­rity, he is from a po­lit­i­cal back­ground and he should be closer to the peo­ple with­out se­cu­rity. He should fol­low Fi­jian Prime Min­is­ter’s style. How­ever, when prime min­is­ter was leav­ing FNU then the same se­cu­rity of­fi­cer came to me and said- ‘Thank you sir, in­deed Fiji is a good place’. Any­way, I was en­joy­ing Prime Min­is­ter Bain­i­marama ac­knowl­edg­ing our Golden coach Ben Ryan known to the Fi­jians as “Peni Raiyani”.

The teacher

To me, Mr Ryan is a teacher for our golden boys. Any pro­gres­sive na­tion should know how to re­spect a teacher. In his speech, the Gold medal is not only a medal; it is the re­spon­si­bil­ity the boys will carry for­ward to the na­tion and to all Fi­jians.

Unity and re­spon­si­bil­ity

Also, unity in the sense that in Mr Bain­i­marama’s speech that on the field there is more teamwork than of an in­di­vid­ual work and that is why the Gold medal is hang­ing on their neck. This is what I gath­ered from the Fiji Prime Min­is­ter’s speech on Sun­day at Prince Charles Park. The prac­tice con­tin­ued by our hon­ourable Pres­i­dent Ma­jor-Gen­eral (ret’d) Jioji Kon­rote at the na­tional gold medal cel­e­bra­tion at the ANZ Sta­dium in Suva on Mon­day Au­gust 22 which was a pub­lic hol­i­day in Fiji just to cel­e­brate the Fiji Seven’s Gold medal­list win­ners. The Pres­i­dent was seated just on the right of Mr Ryan.

CNN re­ported: Ben Ryan- Fiji’s se­cret weapon. Prime Min­is­ter did the same prac­tice in the na­tional cel­e­bra­tion day. He was stand­ing at the ANZ Sta­dium gate to wel­come our Golden team. I could not see the Prime Min­is­ter on Tele­vi­sion in the re­served area, he was al­ways found with com­mon peo­ple. Our Golden boys were very re­spect­ful to Mr Ryan; they al­ways place him first be­fore them. The en­tire event we may re­view through elec­tronic media was a won­der­ful, full of love, re­spect and en­cour­age­ment and maybe in the his­toric books of Fiji. In both the cel­e­bra­tion events, the in­ter-faith ac­tiv­i­ties were re­mark­able which is not com­mon in our mod­ern world. Fi­nally af­ter fin­ish­ing off from the ANZ sta­dium cel­e­bra­tion watch­ing it on FBC chan­nel I de­cided to go for my shop­ping.

Free news­pa­per

I was pick­ing some items and at the same time proudly meet­ing and greet­ing my Fi­jian friends at the shop. As a reg­u­lar prac­tice, af­ter pay­ing for the shop­ping, I headed down to the bread shop to buy the daily news­pa­per. When I of­fered the money for the pa­per, I was greeted by the smi­ley face of the gen­tle­man be­hind the stack of pa­pers just to tell me, Sir, Fiji Sun is free for you all just to cel­e­brate our Gold medal!” It was a brand new of­fer for me. I never got a chance to pick a news­pa­per with­out opening my wal­let.

Chang­ing the phi­los­o­phy of sports

Donna L Merkel from the United States who men­tioned in her re­search ar­ti­cle, that chang­ing the fu­ture of youth to the bet­ter would need a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort be­tween par­ents, coaches, teach­ers, health pro­fes­sion­als, com­mu­nity lead­ers, and politi­cians. As a so­ci­ety, we need to change the phi­los­o­phy of our sports style from a neg­a­tive en­vi­ron­ment to a pos­i­tive one in which most chil­dren can thrive, ben­e­fit from, and sus­tain their par­tic­i­pa­tion in sport. Or­gan­ised sports par­tic­i­pa­tion needs to be avail­able to all cit­i­zens of any coun­try, re­gard­less of gen­der, neigh­bor­hood, or so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus. Any sports should em­pha­sise fun, and max­imise phys­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal, and so­cial de­vel­op­ment for its par­tic­i­pants. A coun­try should have poli­cies and guide­lines which es­tab­lish the frame­work for sports should be im­ple­mented based on sci­en­tific knowl­edge. I to­tally agree with Donna. Sports have many ben­e­fits. Sports and recre­ation should be a fun­da­men­tal part of child’s life, de­spite trou­bling signs in the sports cul­ture. Sport pro­vides a medium for phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, de­vel­op­ing friend­ships, and learn­ing de­vel­op­men­tal skills across all do­mains. Fos­ter­ing a pos­i­tive sports ex­pe­ri­ence is the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of mul­ti­ple fac­tors, i.e. match­ing the child’s readi­ness with the de­mands of the sport, pos­i­tive be­hav­iour from coaches and par­ents, re­al­is­tic goal set­ting, and ap­pro­pri­ate meth­ods in place for in­jury re­duc­tion and man­age­ment. As a par­ent I am wor­ried for our kids. Un­for­tu­nately a group of kids are not on the right road, they placed their po­si­tion against our so­ci­ety. Sports can help our kids to stay in the right road; it can give us the feel­ing that we are one na­tion rather than the Aussie or Amer­i­can! In sports we learn when my com­peti­tor falls down to the ground and I should feel that she is my sis­ter or my brother, my help­ing hand should ex­tend to bring them back to the track. At the end of game we hug each other- which is a great les­son for the rul­ing and op­po­si­tion party of any coun­try.

Fi­nally, is it a wrong idea for a coun­try to in­vest in sports? My strong an­swer- not at all. When we in­vest a sig­nif­i­cant amount for sports then ul­ti­mately we do not have to in­vest a lot for our health sys­tem. A sporty, healthy na­tion would not go very fre­quently to the hospi­tal. There­fore, we should care for our sports sec­tor with na­tional pri­or­ity.

South Pa­cific Sports In­sti­tute

In Fiji, we do not have a na­tional sports in­sti­tu­tion where our chil­dren can learn pro­fes­sional sports. I feel it is the right time to think about our South Pa­cific Sports In­sti­tute. As a big brother Fiji should con­sider our neigh­bour­ing coun­try ben­e­fits as well by ad­ding the name South Pa­cific Sports In­sti­tute. I be­lieve a brand new South Pa­cific Sports In­sti­tute can­not meet our de­mand im­me­di­ately. Re­gard­ing that our ex­ist­ing uni­ver­si­ties in Fiji may take par­tial re­spon­si­bil­ity to place a sport­ing na­tion. Univer­sity can start Sports Science Depart­ment from now; our med­i­cal school could start Sports Medicine. In 2016, one Gold medal is enough for Fiji and Pa­cific. Our heart is full; we felt proud for our boys and team. How­ever, by con­sid­er­ing com­mon peo­ple’s thoughts to­gether in 2020 we may have more Gold from Tokyo!

The whole of Fiji erupted in cel­e­bra­tion af­ter the sevens team won Gold at the Rio Olympics.

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