In a modern age of trending topics and hashtags, the momentum a post on Twitter can have is impressive. Initially the process follows the same linear pattern every time, a thought turning into text and the ultimately a message for anyone and everyone to read. Personally, there have been more than a handful of occasions where I’ve tweeted something only to really, really think about what I’ve just sent and delete it. The majority of people do the same. Others stick to their guns.
Gloucester and Samoa centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu is no stranger to controversy over speaking his mind on Twitter, his immediate focus when tweeting being on his thoughts rather than the wider perspective and potential reaction. His tweets on Sunday are not the first time where a controversial statement he has made has been met by the stern backlash of either opposition supporters or officials. He notably criticised the playing style of last year’s Aviva Premiership champions Saracens after they defeated his side Gloucester in the semi-final, describing Saracens “risk-free rugby” as being “horribly boring”, with their fly-half Owen Farrell “putting more bombs on us than the U.S. did on Osama Bin Laden.” The analogy is wildly inappropriate, but behind it the message holds some substance.
This time round, the target of Fuimaono-Sapolu’s angst has been the IRB following Samoa’s defeat to Wales last Sunday morning, losing 17-10 after failing to hang on to a 6-10 half time lead. The centre has every right to feel aggrieved over the loss due to Samoa’s three day turnaround as opposed to the seven days Wales had to regroup after their narrow defeat to South Africa the week before.
No one disagrees with that, why would they? The Rugby World Cup is all about getting teams from all around the World together to participate on a level playing field, unlike the years in between where sides such as Japan, Canada and Namibia are forgotten about. The scheduling, designed in such a way to bring in as much of the tournament’s income as possible (TV revenue is estimated to bring in 60% of the total income for the tournament), unfortunately has left the smaller nations in a dire situation.
It is likely that the majority of fans, media and officials would merely have been glanced at the scheduling and agreed that it was an unfortunate predicament, and one that they hope would change for the next tournament in 2015. But there is no serious emotional involvement here, no petitions or real outcry from the Tier One nations to allow their fellow competitors equal time to rest and recuperate between matches. Therefore, Fuimaono-Sapolu’s outburst becomes that much more important.
Underneath the swearing there is passion, behind the insults there is an aggrieved sense of injustice. This does not excuse his crude language, either in general or directed at supporters, or his poorly expressed views. Comparing Samoa’s unfair scheduling to the injustices of Apartheid and the Holocaust is both delusional and deeply offensive, but when no action is taken as people chase desperate causes, shock is perhaps the only tool left available. Strip all that away, and you are left with the truth: “#IRB, Stop exploiting my people. Please, all we ask, is fairness. If they get a week, give us a week. Simple. #equity #justice”
Characters such as Fuimaono-Sapolu should not be excluded from Twitter or suspended from taking any further part in this Rugby World Cup. If anything, the last few days will have taught him more about the social networking website than he knew before. Behind the occasionally mis-guided passion there is a sharp wit. His comment of “It’s not like I was throwing dwarves around.” reflects this well. Unfortunately, the damage done from the now deleted words is too severe for his message to hold as much substance as it would have had it been clean. The focus now is not on changes to the system, but whether or not he should be punished. It simply augments the sadness of the situation, as his message has become lost.
by Ben Coles