The selection of Eugine Tepai Tekobi into the national soccer squad should make our Renbel province proud because he makes history for the twin islands who though the game was introduced to them sometimes after World War Two there has not been one selected to play at that highest level like Tekobi.
Actually there were a few others who got selected to train with the national soccer team in the past but they were left out in the final process of selection and return to rugby; so, Eugine be patient and keep working until your father’s dream for you to be selected into the national squad and play international games comes true someday as the head coach of the national team from Spain promised.
The truth behind soccer on our islands, it was the first modern sports to be introduced; and since its introduction this sport flavours our social gathering to replace our traditional wrestling called hetakai and our traditional dance called papa.
For soccer, whenever that game was played on islands, this was before rugby was introduced to us sometimes in the 70s, people gather in number to watch despite the game being played with homemade polobaghu (a ball made from panadanus leaf).
Soccer or football as it was known back then was developed into a different level on our islands when rubber/and leather balls were introduced but never a player was selected to play in the national team that I hope Eugine will make a difference this time round.
The introduction of rugby on our islands in the early 70s however, switches our peoples’ interest from soccer to rugby; and from then until the present our people build their passion for rugby into a level where they now dominate rugby in this country, which the recent rugby sevens championship won by AVAIKI Rugby Club is just one evidence of my claim.
Regarding our people’s interest and passion for rugby many soccer administrators will agree with me that there are good soccer players in Renbel who though selected to train for the national team left for rugby; So Eugine, forget rugby that I know you are also good at and settle with soccer. This is because soccer is where you will be scout out by other Pacific soccer clubs to play for a living in their countries than rugby.
I make the claim that soccer in the Solomons is better than rugby because I know many soccer players who play for a living in many Pacific countries including Australia and New Zealand but know not of a rugby player, even the maestro of rugby.
To all other soccer players in the AVAIKI Chiefs squad who are not selected lift your head high because you’re the team that made Eugine stands out.
Just don’t be discouraged but keep working hard; and stay discipline because coming up soon is the Solomon Games and the Solomon Cup you might have the chance to be selected like Eugine because I perceive that Solomon Islands status in soccer will be different if many Renbel people join the squad taking into consideration our players fighting spirit to win.
Herein also, I would like to thank Mr. Moffet Joel Maungongo Konofilia for committing himself to developing and moulding young aspiring Rennell Bellona soccer players until it bear fruits in the timely selection of one of his players, Eugine into the National Squad.
I’m only sadden by the unfortunate situation that he had gone through that resulted in him being penalised by SIFF for physically reminding one soccer referees in the recent Solomon Cup Tournament to be fair to the Renbel team who he tried to influence and lure their interest into playing football.
I view that the action Mr. Konofilia taken should remind Solomon Islands Football Federation (SIFF) to make proper assessment of her officials before they participate in officiating games because most of the troubles in soccer often started because of poor refereeing and lining.
Referees and linesmen should make fair decision on every team and players regardless where that team or person comes from; and also they should listen to sensible complains for fairness because that is exactly what the FIFA badge referees and linesmen wear during match time.
By this I call for SIFF to also investigate the referee of the AVAIKI Chiefs vs Western Turtle’s game, if he has not yet been investigated; and discipline him for breaching FIFA stands against racism and unfair refereeing because that was clearly demonstrated by the referee of that particular game; an attitude that provoked Konofilia to react.
Mr. Maungongo Konofilia and your sister Joyce Teata, never give up supporting the development of our Avaiki boys in homing their skills in soccer just because of a few negative comments made by some silly and ignorant wantoks from Renbel because majority of us are with you in good time and bad time.
Just keep doing what you are doing because you’re not paid for it by the loggers and miners who destroyed our resources in West Rennell (Niteni customary land) but do things voluntarily for the sake of your mother whose parents come from both islands of Rennell and Bellona; a truth that not many of our wantoks from Renbel, especially the Rennellese, know.
As I close my congratulatory message to Eugine Tekobi, in his selection into the national team, I pay tribute to his father, the late Victor Tekobi, who with little support and cooperation from our people spent much of his time and effort to promote soccer in our Renbel Province as a player and then the administrative head of football until his untimely passing sometimes last month.
Tekobi, your effort to push for your sons to play soccer and the development of soccer on our two islands has now paid off handsomely for you with the selection of your son but unfortunately you are not here today to see the fruit of your work and advice.
I hope Eugine will take his selection seriously to demonstrate respect in fulfilling your desire and ambition that can only be known by many your seriousness to develop soccer in our two islands that not many appreciate or take notice of it until you were called to rest in peace.
Herein also, I would like to commend all others from the players, coaching staff, trainers, management and sponsors of Rennell Bellona soccer for supporting the AVAIKI Chiefs and the development of soccer on our two islands until one get selected into the national training squad.
I urge that keep up the good work because a time is coming when Rennell and Bellona who would suffer severely from the effect of climate change on our islands cause by logging and mining that soar high on Rennell Island; because I perceive that one day if our people are not careful about the use of their natural resources, sports and education would be our people’s means for survival.
But only when logging and mining that will soon turn West Rennell into nothing but a land mass of stones and holes push that more players from Renbel can be selected to play in semi-professional soccer clubs here and abroad because we have nothing to live for after mining and logging are gone from West Rennell.
Actually, I always pray to our God in Heaven to open the eyes of our Renbel people and leaders at all level of our society structure who are generally blinded by their greediness for gain and ignorance to the effect of logging and mining, to see the danger ahead and push that our young people get descent education and participate meaningfully in sports and other social activities for income.
Renbel people, we need to remind ourselves that the trend our national government plan to destroy our meagre resources through logging and mining will totally disadvantage our people and our tiny province by the time Solomon Islands switch political governance into Statehood and also by the time tourism in this country is fully develop as an alternative commercial income to replace logging and mining.
This therefore; leaders, especially our member of Parliament Dr. Tautai Kaitu’u and our Premier, Collin Tesu’atai and his executive members, hear the cry of our people and assist them accordingly and meaningfully so that they can engage in meaningful activities like sports and education because that would be our alternative means of income after our trees and soil are gone to the wealth of the Asians.
In other words, just don’t wait for the election time to make sweet promises again to our people but help them now to develop their potential in sports and to get descent education because the natural resources that was supposed to be our reserved are now harvested wildly by Asians under your watch to our disadvantage.
In fact I’m seriously concerned about your level of support for our people with the huge funds under your discretion because I learnt that you had not help many of our sports men and women including those that played in the recent Solomon Cup and many students that seek your help without logical reason.
To you our MP Tautai and our Premier Collin, be reminded that when loggers and miners leave Rennell Bellona Province most of West Rennell will be nothing but tree stems, stones and holes and nothing for our people to survive on; so what are your development plans for Rennell Bellona before the national election day that both of you are proposing to contest in it?
I don’t need to remind you that the government that you’re part plan to destroy West Rennell intentionally to paralyse our province economic potential will soon find rest place and by the time miners and loggers leave for Malaysia, China and Indonesia wealthy from our resources leaving us poorer than when we were before logging and mining come into West Rennell what are your plans to save us?
Now on you Eugine, be an ambassador for sports and influence others to join you as I did for education because sports and education is our people’s hope for a living in the life now is after our logs and soils are gone.
Eugine, never forget to pray as you were taught by your parents as a kid because many successful sports men and women testify of how much God bless them through their prayer life that usually lead them to high level of discipline both inside and outside of the field.
As I pen off Eugine Tekobi, may I wish you a pleasant and successful journey in your new soccer career my son. Take note that whilst there are too many voices for you to hear, hold on to what your late father’s says because what he says comes from the bottom of his heart for your good.
By Tepuke Pautangata Hakatigisa’a
White River School