Akesa De­fies the Odds

De­fies the Odds

mailife - - Contents - Words and Images by MELA TUILEVUKA

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.

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