Gordon Tietjens' Samoan move gets blasted

Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu.
Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu.

Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu is on the sharply worded warpath again, attacking the appointment of Gordon Tietjens as the Samoan sevens coach.

The outspoken Fuimaono-Sapolu said Tietjens' inability to speak Samoan was among the problems and attacked the way "old white male coaches" were able to operate outside of rugby's eligibility rules."Tietjens coached New Zealand for 22 years ... 22 years! And he can change countries and coach Samoa tomorrow, a country he has absolutely no connection to," Fuimaono-Sapolu told RugbyPlanet.

"But if a Samoan/Fijian kid plays one second for New Zealand, that kid cannot play for anyone else, even excluding the country of his/her birth and the birth countries of his/her parents.

"If old white male coaches are allowed to coach multiple countries they have no connection to, then Polynesian players should be allowed to play for multiple countries they do have a connection to. It really is such a pathetic, malicious, unconscionable rule on so many levels. Stop being so fragile. Change it already."

He suggested Tietjens would struggle guiding Samoa, who had failed to qualify for the Olympics.

"Samoa is a different beast. You have to understand that every professional coach in New Zealand is the beneficiary of an intense rugby culture," he said.

"Children start rugby at four or five years old. Kids here (in Samoa) start competitive rugby at high school. High schools in New Zealand have state of the art facilities and more money than Manu Samoa. Our high schools use tree trunks for goalposts. Most players here have no boots. No ball. No mouthguard. Coaching in the Pacific requires far more depth in philosophy.

"Lets be honest, New Zealand pours more money into rugby than they do into child poverty. If he is successful with Samoa, then he can lay claim to being the greatest ever next to Ratu Peni Raiyani, and also Stephen Betham and Waisale Serevi, who coached Samoa and Fiji from under an organic coconut tree to World Series wins, without any money, heart rate monitors or mountain blast flavoured energy drinks.

"You can't help but be excited at the potential this appointment has. But Tietjens does not speak Samoan. You can have the greatest ideas in the world but if you can't communicate it to people who do not speak your language, then you might as well talk to a toilet. The most important part of this appointment is bilingual (assistant coach) Stephen Betham."

The 35-year-old Fuimaono-Sapolu, a former Samoan international, has been a famously acerbic advocate for Pacific islands rugby, and critic of the sport's ruling order.

Fuimaono-Sapolu said: "Gordon Tietjens will be paid more than the Head of State, the highest paid government official. Tietjens will be paid more than the Prime Minister of Samoa. Coaches are professional too. As much as we romanticize their service, they ain't in it for the fresh Pacific air and cultural experience. A brother gotta get paid."

- NZ Herald

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