Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Tevita Koloi, an unusual assistant to Tonga

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The chaplain is present at all international meetings of the Sea Eagles, which meet France Sunday, October 6 at 9:45.

Time to Reading 2 min.

Obviously, we had asked for an interview with the coach. With some players, too. But, let's face it, not with the chaplain of the team. Until discovering this function in the organizational chart of the national selection of Tonga. "I lead the morning prayer every day, before training," summed up Tevita Koloi, 49, who has been in the job since last season. The world met him in November 2018, stuffed in the neck, cap on the head, flip-flops and shorts, in a hotel in Bordeaux. The Tongans were preparing to win a test against the Barbarians, the reserve team of the Blues.

Tonga chaplain Tevita Koloi (center).

Sunday, October 6, in Japan, they will face the real XV of France. Already their third match of the World Cup, in Kumamoto, after defeats against England (35-3) and Argentina (28-12). Always in the presence of the religious. "Our players have a spirituality, but sometimes it takes someone to connect with rugby. There are so many stories in the Bible to find encouragement or help … "

Christian majority

If the function can surprise, it can be explained by the place of religion in this state of Polynesia: "Our country is very small (a little over 100,000 inhabitants)but there are churches everywhere. By car, if you drive, you pass one, then another, then another. " And to add, seriously: "But if you have a Bible with you, you do not need a particular building to pray. "

Independent of the United Kingdom since 1970, the country is predominantly Christian – Protestant, Mormon or Catholic. A bit like the whole national team, assures Tevita Koloi: "The players line up in front of me. "

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Outside team gatherings, the chaperone lives most of the time in Australia. He presents himself as a "Evangelist" for the Brisbane International City Church, an institution attached to the Pentecostal movement. And it was in New Zealand that he grew up with his family, in search of a better life, two thousand miles beyond the kingdom of Tonga. "There, a Tongan sometimes feels a disconnect between his culture and the place where he lives. In our culture, when you grow up, when you work, you must continue to help your parents. In New Zealand, not necessarily … "

That's also why Toutai Kefu, the coach, enlisted this special assistant. " Before the games, a player reads the Bible, then everyone sings ", says the coach. His Pacific rugby players, the Sea Eagles, have their heads turned towards the heavens. With perhaps in memory the near-miracle of 2011: a victory over the XV of France, already in the first round of the World Cup.

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