mailife

Rememberin­g James

- By MELA KATONIVUAL­IKU Photos SUPPLIED

One year after his death, keen amateur footballer James Bennion still managed to get his close friends and family together. What better way to remember his passing than to have everyone who knew and loved him gather in his hometown of Ba. Bennion collapsed at Tuakau Soccer Club in New Zealand during a football game on 13 May 2017 and later died in Auckland City Hospital. It is believed hw suffered a heart attack while on the pitch. Tuakau Soccer Club Manager Brian Voice described Bennion as a great guy who loved life. “He played 150 games for us without missing a game until he collapsed on the field and that was the worst day of my life,” Voice said. “Bennion would enjoy a beer and was loved by everybody. He didn’t have a bad bone in his body. He missed his family in Fiji. He was a fabulous guy.” Recalling that tragic day last year, Voice said when Bennion collapsed, he thought it was a prank. “I thought he was just being silly as he was the fittest guy in our team and when he collapsed I honestly thought he was joking. “One by one we went over to him and we realised it was not a joke, it was real and it was horrible.” “We tried to resuscitat­e him and I was sure that he would come back but he didn’t.” Voice said Bennion’s death meant everything to the club, as they not only lost a player but a great guy. “Everybody loved him. There are 31 of us who came all the way from New Zealand for his one year memorial in Ba to pay him a visit and bid him goodbye, as some of us were not present during his funeral.” “We miss him big time. It was really sad this morning, especially at the gravesite but the rest of the day was about celebratin­g all the good memories about Bennion.” Best friend and Tuakau Soccer Club member Tim McMillan has fond memories of sharing a few beers with Bennion after a game. “I remember the first day he came over to the local dairy wanting to register to be part of our soccer club. He wandered over and asked if he

could join the team and he never looked back,” Mc Millan said. “After training we had a couple of beers and we got to know him better and we found out that he was a sparky (an electricia­n) by trade so we nicknamed him Jimmy Sparks.” “He played soccer with us for eight years and became part of the family.” McMillan added that Bennion’s gentle ways, generous sense of humour and kindness resulted in the many friendship­s he forged. “He became a part of my family, together with my wife and two daughters. My oldest daughter Hazel is nine and knew Bennion well.” “She was lucky to have been able to fly to Fiji for the first year anniversar­y of his passing.” Mc Millan said Bennion was his best mate and they lived out of each other’s pockets. “He was always at my house and we were always together. I don’t think I have gone through the whole grieving process like I should have and coming to Fiji to visit his grave has helped me a lot.” McMillan felt really emotional approachin­g Bennion’s grave as he was still finding it hard to let his best friend go. “I think once the visit finished, I was relieved, its hard to explain the feeling, probably because I haven’t accepted the fact he is gone but I am glad I was part of this 31-member group who came to visit Bennion’s grave.”

 ??  ?? James (right) in action on the field
James (right) in action on the field
 ??  ?? James Bennion
James Bennion
 ??  ?? Jimmy’s memorial service
Jimmy’s memorial service
 ??  ?? Jimmy’s best friend recieves the award
Jimmy’s best friend recieves the award
 ??  ?? Jimmy’s immediate family
Jimmy’s immediate family

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Fiji