Akesa Defies the Odds
Defies the Odds
When asked if she could referee the men’s finals of the Vulaca Volleyball Championship in February, Akesa Delai had second thoughts. Firstly, no woman has ever controlled a men’s volleyball final in the past; and secondly, it is a norm that there is always be bickering, shouting and things flying around during the final of volleyball championships such as this one and the referee would get the full brunt. With these thoughts running through her head, the Fiji Airways flight attendant decided to take up the challenge and hopefully make a change on court with her knowledge about the rules of the sport. The Matokana villager from Ono-i-Lau later described her experience officiating in the men’s final as exciting as well asd challenging. “I know when I walked onto the court, all eyes were on me. The two teams in the finals, along with their coaches and managers, were going to focus on my decision making during the game,” Delai said. “I told myself I had attended a number of referee courses and referee clinics and I would put all that knowledge into action during the final.” Eagle Volleyball Club from Raiwai and Red Hawks from Kinoya battled each other for the Vulaca Trophy, with the Eagles winning two sets and no quarrels from the team or their supporters on both sides. Delai is one of the few people associated with the sport of volleyball in Fiji who is an accredited Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) referee for indoor volleyball and also beach volleyball. “Attaining my AVC accreditation is a bonus because I can officiate and referee at the Asia Games and any AVC or Oceania volleyball or beach volleyball games,” she said. “I am still pinching myself about attainting my AVC accreditation in beach volleyball as I have never played beach volleyball let alone refereed a beach volleyball game.” Akesa gained the accreditation in November during the Oceania Beach Volleyball tournament when a two-day beach volleyball referee clinic was held prior to the games. But her interest in volleyball started much earlier, from when she was in primary school in Nadi. “Every afternoon my neighbours used to set up court after work to play and I used to join in,” she said. “My Rotuman neighbours were the pioneers of Granville Volleyball Club.” Akesa said she comes from a family of swimmers but due to health reasons, she was ordered to stop swimming. “But me being me, I kept on swimming in defiance of the doctor’s orders although I was not allowed to swim competitively. So I jumped to the first sport I fell in love with, which was volleyball. “I remember back in Nadi, if my late father had afternoon shift, I would skip swimming training just to go and play volleyball.” Her biggest inspiration in attaining all that she has achieved is her uncle – former Fiji Volleyball President and national rep Kemueli Naiqama. “I still consider him as one of the best volleyball players in
Fiji and the best left-handed player in the sport,” she said. “I also get inspiration from Adi Varanisese Logavatu who is a former Fiji Volleyball women’s coach and a great mentor and friend.” “I have so many good things to say about her but rolling it into one, Adi Vara is deserving of my deepest gratitude and respect.” “These two, together with Ratu Ili Raketekete and Laisenia Seru, inspired me to be a technical official in volleyball.” Delai said she has learnt so much under their guidance and tutelage. “I consider it a real blessing having to reap and share the rewards of their teaching in coaching and refereeing,” she said. She thanked Fiji Volleyball Federation for all the training and coaching clinic it conducts because people like her can become qualified referees and coaches and also give back to the sport.
Akesa (in yellow) officiates in the Oceania Championships last year in Suva.
Akesa briefs Fiji captain Anaseini Seniloli before a match during the Oceania Championships last year.
Akesa (left) and Marica Togayali during the Oceania Beach Volleyball Championship at Smuggler’s Cove in Nadi in November last year.