VIEW-magazine (Page 1)

full of old boys in suits, drinking champagne and eating tiny prawn sandwiches. That might not be the case but it is the perception, and if they are willing to throw open their doors and let me in we’ll have access to the Tier One nations as well.” The closest he gets to the lat- ter in the documentary is a brief interview with then-CEO of World Rugby, Brett Gosper, who resigned from his role just three weeks after the documentary was released in the UK. “That for me spoke volumes,” says Leo, “but it’s important that we go forward focusing on the positive, and offering solutions to the current situation.” Another major journalistic coup for the self- described ‘amateur’ in the documentary is an audience with Samoan Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi. A decade ago Leo was dropped from the national team after he called out the Samoa Rugby Union over corruption allegations, and was labelled as "stupid" by the Chairman, AKA the PM. During the initial controversy, in response to Leo’s complaints about Samoan national team players not getting their dues for international matches, the ex-Manu Samoa player was warned not to ‘swim in his waters’ lest he should drown. The film also talks to somewhat of a who’s who of Pacific Island greats currently playing internationally, as well as a number of former players now back home in Samoa, Fiji and Tonga. Leo says that he is eternally grateful for their ongoing support and willingness to speak openly given the retribution that he and others have received for speaking out, citing their personal and professional achievements in the sport as a reason that they could be so free with their comments. Former Samoa midfielder, Eliota Fuimaono- Sapolu – now a lawyer and activist – is amongst the most outspoken of the bunch, which isn’t unexpected given his career addressing issues of racism in education and sport. His com- ments liken Tier One teams and World Rugby to early colonialists, running roughshod over developing countries and extracting riches with little return. He also asserts that rugby has never protected human rights, which becomes abundantly clear when the docu- mentary focuses on the work of the PRPW to support Tongan player, Sione Vaiomo’unga.

He is seen trapped and suffering in the grim winter of Europe’s deep east, where his club rather unceremoniously ditched him after the discovery of an ongoing kidney problem. PRPW ended up funding his kidney transplant, a happy ending for a player who was the only player in Tonga’s 2011 World Cup squad to still be active in rugby for Tonga at the time, but who was left cold, sick, and struggling to survive on the other side of the world. The film takes aim at several key points: firstly, that the one player, one nation eligibility rule means the Pacific Islands lose all their best players forever, secondly, that this is in no small part due to the way the Pacific Islands fill the teams and the stadia of tier one nations but get barely so much as to pay their bills. “With the amount of international players coming out of Tonga you would think that the amount of money being generated by the sport would be reflected back in the country,” says Leo. “It would be enough to totally transform a small nation not just in terms of new stadia and rugby balls, but new schools and hospitals.” A poignant moment in the film is when Leo visits his father in Samoa, after years of the family being tainted somewhat by the ex- player’s willingness to speak out. When his father finally gave his son’s work his blessing, was that an important breakthrough for Leo? “My father is in the matai system alongside the likes of the Prime Minister, and it’s pretty dangerous to be seen to stir the pot. We had a lot of chats over the years and that was just one of them, but I think he has finally understood what is at the heart of the work we’re trying to do. “It’s all about making things different for the next generation... as players we all want to leave a jersey in a better place than we found it.”


2021 JULY View 21

Made with FlippingBook Converter PDF to HTML5