Story by: Peni Mudunavonu, The Fiji Times (10/10/2016)

SPORTS at primary schools level has been claimed by sports personalities as the basis of all sports in the world.

Rightly so because that is where children learn the fundamentals and the rules of sports and how they are played.

It is where they learn the different kinds of sport, and how they are played.

From that grassroots level to international stardom, many tend to forget the tireless work of teachers and coaches who taught school children the rules of each sport, how to play, and how to keep fit.

These are normally done after school hours, and most of the time teachers offer their time free.

The teachers and the coaches take their responsibilities in their strides.

They groom and guide a child to become a hero and the teaching they implement at that young age is hard to forget.

When a child turns into an athlete and becomes a star, he or she will never forget the basics learned from school.

Time and again that teaching will show in the way he or she plays, in the way the athlete run, or in the way a star rugby player catches the ball. The teachers and the coaches are the unsung heroes. They are the second parent in sports, yet they are always forgotten.

And they do not only end up in coaching, some years ago some of them helped form what is called today the Fiji Primary Schools Athletes Association.

It is said to be the basis of all sports in Fiji.

In the mid-1980s, the association revealed, Henry Elder, as the headteacher of Veiuto Primary School in Suva, was the co-ordinator of the Suva Primary Schools Athletics Association that organised the annual athletics competition at the National Stadium, now known as ANZ Stadium, for Suva, Lami and Nasinu schools.

In 1986, Paula Cavu, as the divisional education officer western, organised the first Western Division Primary Schools Athletics Association championship at Churchill Park, Lautoka.

The event was called the Juicy Games because it was sponsored by Island Bottlers of Fiji.

All the districts in the Western Division were represented – Ra, Ba/Tavua/Vatukoula, Lautoka/Nadi/Yasawa and Nadroga/Navosa.

In 1987, Elder and Cavu, decided to combine the two athletics championships into a national competition which was staged in Term 3 at the National Stadium.

On the same weekend Cavu was elected president of the Fiji Primary Schools Amateur Athletics Association (FPSAAA) and Elder was elected secretary and treasurer.

Though he was involved indirectly before 1991, Patrick Bower, now the secretary, assisted Cavu and Elder.

Together, they pursued to bring the primary athletics games to the next level. The association is now called Fiji Primary School Athletics Association (FPSAA).

The first official sponsor was Goodman Fielder and the Games were then known as the Twisties Games.

After the Twisties Games, Nestle came onboard and the name changed to Milo Games.

In 2006, in the 11th hour, Nestle informed FPSAA that it could not continue sponsorship. The question whether or not the Games will be staged was in the balance.

Thanks to FMF Foods Ltd, they came to the rescue and offered to sponsor for that period. FPSAA was extremely grateful to FMF for coming onboard at such a short notice.

In 2007, FPSAA signed a three-year term with FMF Foods Ltd and the Games became the FMF Chow Games. In 2007, Vuli Waqa, another former teacher and prominent athletics administrator, introduced to FPSAA the use of photo finish and meet manager software to run the competition.

“We were privileged to have these facilities for the first time in 2007 with the help of Yvonne Mullins from Oceania Athletics.

In 2011, FMF Foods Ltd continued with the sponsorship, but the highlight was the divisional games that was introduced, Bower said.

The divisional games were to be held every three years and on the fourth year, the National Games will be featured.

It was an exhilarating moment for everyone as the divisions now have the opportunity for greater participation from their respective schools.

This initiative by FMF Foods Ltd and FPSAA is an excellent way of reaching to the community in their own locality to develop athletics at the primary level.

In 2015, the Northern and Western divisions travelled to Suva for the FMF Chow National Championship.

The divisional development was witnessed at the ANZ Stadium that year and was a memorable event.

This year, 2016, we are back to the Divisional Championship and FMF Foods Ltd has made this possible.

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