Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu: martyr or sore loser?
I can’t help but feel very sad about the whole Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu saga. Many people, myself included, sympathise with his point highlighting the lack of rest days that the Tier 2 nations have compared to the Tier 1 nations. And that is a valid criticism of the IRB.
However, his personal attack on Welsh referee Nigel Owens and his strong use of inflammatory language against the IRB was way out of line and makes him look far from the barrister that he is.
I believe it also reflects badly on Manu Samoa because it makes them look like really sore losers.
Would Fuimaono-Sapolu have gone on his personal attacks if Manu Samoa had beaten the Springboks? I don’t think so.
There is also something not right about Fuimaono-Sapolu’s continued linking of the Manu Samoan RWC plight with massive social and political moments in history. There were real victims and people were really treated like crap back then.
Comparing that to participating in a tournament that is the pinnacle of your chosen profession with all your ‘family’, staying in 4 star hotels BUT playing a game earlier than the Tier 1 nations, is a stretch.
Fuimaono-Sapolu claims that the link between the two is that the underlying principle is “I am allowed to treat this person like shit. So there’s a parallel, albeit a very small one”.
I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective.
The IRB is far from perfect.
But to accuse them of treating the minnows like ‘slaves’ is harsh. So is claiming that they treat Tier 2 nations like shit. The IRB has done plenty for Pacific Rugby.
We can always debate whether it’s enough, but you can’t accuse them of not contributing anything.
A small list of IRB contributions to Pacific Rugby:
- Funding the Pacific Rugby Cup & The Pacific Nations Cup.
- Funding the participation of the Fiji, Samoa & Tongan U.20 teams at the World Champs.
- Funding the International Sevens Series.
- Help with funding the construction of the High Performance Unit (HPU) in Samoa.
- Providing gyms with analysis tools.
- Providing referee & coaching workshops.
- Funding 6 matches played around the world by Tonga A.
How ironic is it that Samoa probably got the best grant from the IRB with a contribution of over GBP £1million for their HPU?
Last year the IRB provided Pacific Rugby with about $20 million.
So it’s a bit hard to claim getting the ‘slave’ treatment when you see some of the things that the IRB has done for Pacific Rugby.
Now, I can understand Fuimaono-Sapolu stating that these tweets were done when he was ‘tanked’ and in the ‘heat of the moment’. It happens.
We all say things we don’t mean when we’re really cranky. But Fuimaono-Sapolu is now standing by those comments (except his ‘racist’ call on Owens, which he has deleted) and is now taking a defiant stand against the IRB by telling them to ‘bring it’.
Fuimaono-Sapolu sounded very confident that he had nothing to worry about when, upon getting told that he had a case to answer, he tweeted that given the circumstances and context, it was an easy case. Problem is that he never showed up for the case, which is why he is now banned from all rugby until he does in fact formally confront the IRB.
Fuimaono-Sapolu reasoned that he didn’t even know when and where his hearing was being held, but that sounds hollow. Especially when asked if he would have attended if he did know the details or his hearing. He answered with: “Perhaps”.
Fuimaono-Sapolu now seems to be taking the martyr stance, which is very bold. He has a lot of support, which makes this a classic David and Goliath story.
However, it’s a tricky thing taking the martyr stand.
In order for that to work the public has to have sympathy for the martyr and his cause along with identifying with the ‘injustice’ caused.
Fuimaono-Sapolu started well when he highlighted the injustices of the short game turnarounds, but then I reckon he starts to lose the ‘moral argument’ when the attacks start getting out of hand with the historic comparisons, the drunken tweets which looked more like sore grapes than principled statements, then the no-show at his own hearing, which makes him look cowardice (not saying he is, just that it looks that way, especially after all his taunting of the IRB).
The thing I see now is that if the IRB do change the match turnarounds for the 2015 RWC, Fuimaono-Sapolu and his supporters will claim the credit for it, thus completing his martyrdom (that’s if his ban still stands). Never mind that perhaps it was always going to happen.
Would that make all his other outlandish comments not matter any more?
Depends on which side you’re on.
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