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The excitement is growing stronger.

Two days away from the highly anticipated historical match between the Fiji Bati and the Toa Samoa, Fiji Bati’s captain, Kevin Naiqama, said he is ready to go.

The 27-year-old who is playing for the Wests Tigers told The Samoa Observer that he is excited to be in Samoa.

“It feels good to be here,” said Naiqama.

“Most of us were really excited to come here to Samoa.

"I’ve never been here before; it’s a beautiful country and so many similarities to Fiji.

"In the ways of the tropical and culture as well. I am definitely enjoying it so far and it’s only been two days, and then we went to the waterfalls on Sunday and we’re going to another one on Thursday on our day off, and we’re so looking forward to that.”

On the other hand, spending time with his other Fijian rugby league players is one of the reasons why he is happy. 

“We are also enjoying the week; it’s always fun camping with the Fijian boys," he said.

"And also looking forward to meet up with two of my teammates from Wests Tigers [David Nofoaluma and Sauaso Sue] so I’m hoping to catch on with during the week as well.”

Moreover, although this is just a friendly game between two island countries, Naiqama believes that it will be tough because both teams play with a lot of passions and pride.

“I think this game is important to all of us," he said.

"At the end of the day, it’s a friendly match and you get nothing out of it. 

“But I think we have a lot of pride and passion for both teams. You know for the Samoan boys, they are playing for their families which are what we are doing as well, representing our culture, our ancestors and the generations before us and the generations to come. 

“So in regards to that, it’s massive and it’s always an honor and privilege for me to represent my country and my family so it means a lot to me.”

Naiqama went on to say that there will be a lot of advantage to the Toa Samoa team given that they are playing in front of a home crowd for the first time in history.

“And I know this is the first time they are having an international test match here for rugby league so, we know that it’s a really big occasion," he said.

“But we don’t think that it will add a lot of pressure on us, as Fijians, we are pretty laid back. We are just enjoying each other’s company and enjoying the week because we don’t know that it might be the last time we will be playing together with the same group of boys, so yeah, we are just enjoying the week and taking it all in. 

“And I am definitely looking forward to Saturday and I’m excited to play and I am sure the Samoan boys are excited as well. It will be definitely be a tough physical game.

"I am also looking forward to playing the game that we all love.

"I also think that both sides are happy to represent their countries and heritage.”

Preparations have been going very well, said Naiqama. 

Being a captain may seem like a heavy burden to others, but not to Naiqama.

This is because he believes in teamwork and he believes in his team. 

“As a captain I think it’s a shared role," he said.

"I think I take a lot of pressure off myself here to the older boys helping out and having their say.

"So in that regard, it takes a lot of responsibility off me and I haven’t said too much to the boys yet. 

“(I am) just telling them to enjoy the week and I think control is a massive thing for us, you know, trying to control the ball and possession and tackling. You know the Samoan have got really big boys so I think defense will be a big thing for us this weekend.”

Being here for this friendly game and also in time of the 30th anniversary of rugby league in Samoa is adding bonus to the significance of this game, said Naiqama. 

“It’s awesome to be here for the celebration,” he said. 

“At the end of the day we are all playing rugby league.

"So it’s good that Samoa has got a presence of rugby league here in Samoa, I know that the Union has got a heavy presence here in Samoa and it’s the same for Fiji as well. Especially for them winning Gold because all the younger kids now want to play rugby union. 

“But that’s part of the reasons why I wanted to play for Fiji.

"Just for the future generations of Fiji, I just to show them that there is a pathway for them in rugby league as well. And not just union. 

“Just like in Samoa, 30 years is a long time and big congratulations to them because rugby league in Fiji have only been around for like five years now.

"So it’s a big occasion for them and it’s really good.”

In his last comments, Naiqama said that he is just really excited to play on Saturday.

“I am really looking forward to it.

“I am just taking it day by day. We still got a few bit of wave from the game and we’re going to think about it too much. But come game day, we are all excited to play the game and especially some of our ex-team mates and the Samoan team. 

“I am sure there will be a big crowd out there, and probably be one-sided.

"But at the end of the day, we all represent Pacific Island Country and we are out there to have fun and enjoy the game and I am definitely looking forward to it. It’s exciting.”

This article first appeared in The Samoa Observer and is used by permission.


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