Well, it’s official. Fijian lock Leone Nakarawa has been granted entry into New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup. Why is this an important development in the 2011 Rugby World Cup? Sit back and let me tell you.
At first glance, people might be asking why they should care about the admission of one particular player onto New Zealand soil for the sport’s ultimate competition.
Was he suspended for using steroids?
For dirty and illegal play?
Nakarawa was not going to be allowed entry to New Zealand because he was a member of the Fijian military. Until he resigned, he was not expected to be allowed into New Zealand, World Cup or no. This development probably just accelerated his resignation, which was expected in time due to interest in his mad game by European teams.
For those who might not remember, the military overthrew the governing powers in Fiji about 5 years ago, and since the 2006 military coup in Fiji, New Zealand had banned all Fijian citizens involved in the coup from entering the country. As a member of the military and a member of the Rugby World Cup team, Nakarawa found himself caught in the middle of the argument. So to qualify to play in New Zealand, he had to resign from the military.
While I can imagine the pressure Nakarawa was under during his decision to quit the military, and I know this might have given New Zealand a black eye to the Fijian citizens, or those who are backing the military government, I can’t help but be impressed by the continuing stand by the Kiwis, who are firm in their decision to not let anyone connected to the military government into New Zealand.
For Fiji, this is the latest in a continuing story. From an athletic standpoint, they’ve become almost a pariah state for the rest of the Commonwealth countries, who suspended Fiji’s status in 2008, thus causing them to miss the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. And until the military government decides to step down (which is a core requirement by many of the nations and organizations involved in the boycott), we’ll continue to see the hand of geopolitical affairs influence one of the premier Olympic Rugby teams in our sport.