Serevi Reveals How He Went To US
For the first time sevens maestro Waisale Serevi talked about the most trying time in his life after his rugby career came to an end.
“I was really low then,” Serevi said while speaking as guest speaker at the University of the South Pacific School of Social Sciences special seminar last night. “It was 2010 and at the end of my rugby career. For me it was lie down and quit or to move on to the next level. I thought about those that had supported me- my wife and children. “People who knew me and my relations were reaching out to me but they could not touch me. Even rugby was reaching out and yet they could not touch me. But God’s hand was able to reach me and lift me up.” Serevi said this made him leave the country and head to Canada to look for opportunities.
“I’m grateful to Pastor Netani (Gucake) who is here tonight with his daughter. They housed me for a couple of months in Canada as I went on searching.”
It was there, he says, Seattle Rugby heard that he was in Canada and wanted to go over.
“I probably was the first Fijian that walked from Canada to USA. As I was walking two officials approached me and asked where I was going and I told them to the border. “As I walked I was carrying my plastic bags. One plastic bag had my boots and runners, the other plastic bag had my toiletries and one had my clothes. “At the border I produced my passport and they saw that I was a rugby player but by then an Indian man came by and he knew me so he explained to the officials and that made it easier for me to cross over. For that to happen it was only from God.” Serevi said at the moment he did not know that he was actually walking into a gold mine. “The head of Seattle Rugby became my business partner and asked me what else I needed and I told him that I needed my family to be with me. He pressed a few buttons and within minutes their airline tickets were in front of me as they were to leave Fiji the very next day. “My family was always there supporting my rugby career and it was time for me to give something back to them. For me it was education for my children even though I was noschool,” Serevi said with laughter.
Today, he says, eldest daughter Unaisi has joined the US Air Force while Asinate has been named in the USA women’s rugby team for next year’s World Cup. “She couldn’t make it to the Rio Olympics as she still has her Fijian passport.”
Serevi said we should always support whoever the Fiji Rugby Union has appointed to take over from national rugby sevens coach Ben Ryan. ‘Whether he is a local or an overseas coach we must always support him so he can achieve what he has been set to do,” he said. “Every good coach will always select the players he wants. And we should be grateful to what Ben Ryan has achieved for us at the Olympics.” Serevi said Ryan was a great coach and for now he is set to go out and take on new challenges.
“I will tell you two things why I say Ryan is a great coach. First when he came to Fiji for three months he was not paid. What would have happened if he had gone back home? He stayed and we should thank him for that. “Secondly when they arrived at Nadi after the Olympics, Ryan was asked on whether he was leaving and he said yes but this is not about me. It’s about them- the players. That is a mark of a great coach.”
The maestro paid tribute to the late All Blacks winger Jonah Lomu indicating he was his most toughest opponent in the rugby field. “At the 1994 Hong Kong 7s, Luke Erenavula who was playing for New Zealand bought a young Jonah to my room. We were introduced and we had tea together with those FMF biscuits and had a good time as we talked about rugby. As we parted that night, Jonah took all the bean packets so I tapped him on the shoulder and urged him to make the most of it. “Probably that was my biggest mistake ever.” Serevi said Lomu was a humble player off the field but a different person altogether when he comes running down at you. Edited by Osea Bola
Waisale Serevi at the University of the South Pacific Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies last night.