Mr. Ross Taylor – International Cricket Council Ambassador;
Members of the ICC T20 World Cup Trophy Entourage;
Government Delegates and Representatives;
Members of the Diplomatic Corp;
Stakeholders and Cricket Friends.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula Vinaka and good evening to you all.
It’s a pleasure to be here this evening to welcome the International Cricket Council T20 World Cup Trophy on its world tour. Vinaka vakalevu to Mr. Ross Taylor and ICC for setting this trophy on its maiden voyage to Fiji.
My friends, you are standing in cricket country. The first match recorded in Fiji was in 1878, six years before the first game of rugby was played in Fiji. For nearly a century and a half this sport has inspired and united our people. Indeed, the values of teamwork and togetherness demanded by Fiji’s early sporting endeavours sprung some of the earliest shoots of our national unity. Team Fiji’s victory over the West Indies in 1956 is among our first and proudest international wins as a soon-to-be sovereign country. Those moments of celebration and solidarity help make a nation. That was as true in 1878, as it was in 1956, and as it is today.
You don’t have to look far to find passion for the game of cricket in Fiji. Just across the way, at the grounds of the beautifully re-developed Albert Park, cricketers compete nearly every weekend.
Many bowlers, wicket-keepers, and sweepers who began their cricketing careers on pitches like Albert Park across the country have gone on to join overseas clubs –– which is a wonderful opportunity for them and the families they support. We do more than congratulate these athletes on their success, we are investing in new talent that can follow in their footsteps.
Cricket Fiji’s purpose under their Strategic Plan is “Inspiring Fijians to be their Best through Cricket.” –– a vision I think speaks to the strong character-building values that sports like cricket can engrain in our people. With Fiji now fully open for business, tourism, and sport, the “Cricket for Good, Fiji” program, in partnership with Child-Fund Sport for Development, is developing the next generation of cricket coaches –– not only by passing on skills for the game but also knowledge that serves them throughout all aspects of life.
In total, we’ve allocated 9.9 Million Dollars this financial year to support sports development as part of Fiji’s economic recovery –– cricket included. For Fiji is a sporting nation and the more talent we tap the better, for our athletes and their families and the Fijian economy.
Of course, we wish our men’s national cricket team well in their participation in the East Asia Pacific World Cup Qualifier in Vanuatu from next week. The same goes for our women’s side as they prepare for the inaugural Pacific Cup in October in Vanuatu. Seeing a trophy like this at our shores is an inspiration to all of our national cricketers and to everyone who follows and competes in this sport across our islands. I have every faith that it will one day return to Fiji on the shoulders of a victorious national cricket side. So as this trophy departs for the next stop on its tour, we know it won’t be the last time it comes to Fiji.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.