FOR FIJI

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By MELA KATONIVUALIKU Pho­tos by JONE LUVENITOGA

FOR the past 13 months now, for­mer Paris Saint-Ger­main (PSG) as­sis­tant coach Christophe Gamel has been coach­ing our na­tional soc­cer team. Why would an as­sis­tant coach for a lead­ing French foot­ball club want to come and coach our “Bula Boys”?– a la­bel that Gamel used that has stuck with his team. Ba­si­cally be­cause the 45-year-old French­man says he al­ways loves a chal­lenge and coach­ing our na­tional soc­cer team is no easy feat. Gamel lives by the late Nel­son Man­dela’s in­spi­ra­tional words: “I learned that COURAGE is not the ab­sence of fear, but the tri­umph over it. The BRAVE man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who CON­QUERS that fear.” Al­though not a flu­ent English speaker, Gamel man­aged to share his story with maiLife de­spite his busy sched­ule last month. “Please bear with me,” said Gamel, and for more than hour told how he was born in Meaux in France and grew up in a hous­ing es­tate sim­i­lar to Suva’s Rai­waqa Hous­ing. “These high rise flats in a no­to­ri­ous area back in France. I was an only child from a poor back­ground and I grew up in a flat. I lost my Dad when I was very young. He used to build roads while my Mum, who is part-Ital­ian, was a cler­i­cal of­fi­cer in a small com­pany.” Gamel’s late fa­ther made sure his son went to school and al­ways re­minded him the im­por­tance of get­ting an ed­u­ca­tion.

“I am grate­ful now that my Dad made me un­der­stand the im­por­tance of get­ting an ed­u­ca­tion and my Mum was just an amaz­ing woman, I owe them a lot,” he said. “I am liv­ing proof that with noth­ing much, I could work hard to be where I am now. “Even though I was an only child, I grew up with my cousins in our small flat and my par­ents sup­ported us all in our ed­u­ca­tion. “De­spite los­ing my fa­ther and the strug­gles my Mum went through to put food on the ta­ble and get us to school, I had a nor­mal child­hood.” Gamel said he had peo­ple from dif­fer­ent eth­nic back­grounds as neigh­bours in the high rise flats. “It was here that I started play­ing soc­cer and my pas­sion for the sport grew. I didn’t know my child­hood days were pre­par­ing a path­way for this life I am liv­ing now.” Gamel’s love of the sport has taken him places all over the world, but it has come at a price. Con­stant travel and time away from his wife and 7-year-old son has cost Gamel his mar­riage. “I am cur­rently sep­a­rated from my wife who lives with my son in France be­cause of the time I spend coach­ing and trav­el­ling. They pre­fer a sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment com­pared to my no­madic one.” “I still talk to them over the phone and make video calls and my wife is do­ing a good job look­ing af­ter my son – and I miss them.” Gamel played soc­cer at a semi-pro­fes­sional level but

Fiji soc­cer coach Gamel shows off his soc­cer skills.

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