Tongan ban on girls playing rugby and boxing ‘not our policy’, says Pohiva

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Tongan ban on girls playing rugby and boxing ‘not our policy’, says Pohiva

A ban on girls playing rugby in state schools in Tonga has polarised public opinion. Image: Matangi Tonga Online

By Kalino Latu, editor of Kaniva News

Tonga’s Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva disagrees with a decision by his Minister of Education to ban girls from Tonga High School boxing or playing rugby.

He said the decision was not in line with his government’s policy.

“It is the government’s responsibility to provide opportunities for all the students to participate in all sports,” the Prime Minister said.

“It is for the individual students and their parents to decide whether or not they should participate in a particular sport like rugby and boxing.”

Education Minister Penisimani Fifita and his education authority had imposed the ban.

Meanwhile, a former Catholic principal said that if Catholic schools agreed with the Ministry’s decision it would be “a disgrace” for the church.


Fr ‘Aisake Vaisima, who was principal of ‘Apifo’ou College before he left Tonga for Fiji for a new role in January, told Kaniva News the Catholic church’s education authority had not banned its school girls from taking part in boxing and rugby.

The comments came after a controversial letter from the Ministry of Education and Training was leaked to news media, sparking an outrage that polarised international news as far away as New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Majority not affected
It is understood the ban does not affect the majority of school girls in Tonga, especially at the church and private schools which are attended by 90 percent of all students in the kingdom.

In the letter, an education authority told the principal of Tonga High School, a government-sponsored institute, that a decision had been made by the Director of Education to ban its girls from participating in rugby and boxing.

The letter, which was written in Tongan, was dated March 15.

It Tongan it said:

“Ko hono ‘uhinga he ‘oku fepaki ia mo ‘etau ‘ulungaanga fakafonua ki hono tauhi ke molumalu ‘a ha’a fafine, ‘o taau mo e tala tukufakaholo na’e fatu’aki ‘a e fakava’e na’e fakatoka talu pea mei ono’aho ‘o kehe ai ‘a Tonga pea mei ha toe fonua ‘i he Pasifiki pea mo mamani.”

This translates into English as: “The reason is because it is against our culture to keep women dignified so it still upholds the tradition of which its basis had been set out since the olden days making Tonga exceptional in the Pacific and the world.”

Prime Minister Pohiva, said the letter from the Ministry of Education and Training to Tonga High School “purporting to ban girls from participating in rugby and boxing is not Tongan Government policy,” his office said in a statement this afternoon.

“Sports is good for the health and the wellbeing of the people and this government, like previous governments, actively encourages the participation of every Tongan student in all sports without discrimination.”

International reaction
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has expressed her disapproval over the ban.

Ardern said New Zealand’s aid support for sports in Tonga would not be threatened, but she disagreed with the directive.

“As a school student I played touch rugby and I would encourage all young women to engage in whatever sporting code they are interested in,” Ardern said.

“We provide funding via MFAT to Tonga to encourage children’s participation in sports. A young woman will still be able to do that through their villages, even if this dictate is made by these schools.”

The New Zealand-funded Sports for Health Rugby Programme was launched at Kolomotu’a Community Rugby Field in February.

Known as Quick Rip, it was intended to focus on girls and boys aged 13 – 18 years of age.

New Zealand provided NZ$4 million to support efforts in four Pacific countries, including Tonga, to reduce the rate of non-communicable diseases in the Pacific.

Some people on Facebook supported the ministry’s move and said rugby and boxing were sports for men only and Tongan girls should not take part in them.

Kaniva News has a sharing arrangement with Asia Pacific Report.

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Glittering time at Toulouse, but Novès’ sacking smacks of scapegoating

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Glittering time at Toulouse, but Novès’ sacking smacks of scapegoating

Guy Novès … “his sacking smacks of scapegoating … after two decades of terrific rugby his Toulouse teams gave to us all.” Image: NewsDuJour

TRIBUTE: By former Planet Rugby editor Danny Stephens

Not three hours had passed since last week’s message from Queen Elizabeth II said she was “…hoping that they [the French] rediscover their swagger” when the news broke that Bernard Laporte had ended Guy Novès’ attempts at helping the French do just that.

It was news that, in all probability, has ended Noves’ rugby career unless Toulouse come calling once more. A one-club man, he spent 13 seasons on Toulouse’s wing as a player and 22 years orchestrating the team in that famous one-kneed coaching posture (not forgetting a couple of years prior as an assistant).

His time in charge of Toulouse was nothing short of glittering: nine championships, four Heineken Cups and a pair of runners-up medals for each tournament as well. He was responsible for probably three of the great generations of French players emerging and dominating – the first of Califano, Pelous, Castaignede, Ntamack the second of Servat, Elissalde, Michalak, Jauzion, Clerc, the third with Maestri, Dusautoir, Picamoles, Medard.

He was considered for the national job after the 2007 World Cup, but declined the offer to stay with Toulouse.

It wasn’t the first time he had declined the national team either: he ended his own international playing career.

After declaring himself not yet recovered from a thigh injury ahead of one match, the selectors didn’t pick him again when he did declare fitness before the next. He promptly quit, alleging a lack of contact and respect from the federation.


His decision to reject the national team and stay with Toulouse in 2007 smacked of lingering bitterness from that, as well as giving the impression that he simply wasn’t interested in anything outside la Ville Rose.

Embodied Frenchness
Yet, he embodied Frenchness. His unique and mildly eccentric coaching posture, his perpetually well-groomed appearance (tracksuits looked stylish on him) and weighty antipathy toward the English – he once ended a radio interview with the words “I’ll take no lessons from the English” – all combined to leave you in no uncertain terms where he came from, as did his occasional explosions of temper; he was led away by police after the Heineken Cup win in 2005 when stewards refused to let his family onto the pitch to celebrate with him.

But it was a strange last decade. He seemed unable to find a fourth generation to bring through at Toulouse, up against the stiffer competition that other clubs imported and finding no way to cope with the increasingly attritional demands of the French season.

Toulouse looked outdated by the time Novès relented to take the national job.

He could not find selectoral consistency in the national team either, rarely his fault. Having started out looking to impose his own philosophy of forward bullies allowing graceful backs to play, combinations of injury and club/country overlaps left him returning to a more direct game, not his natural inclination.

And as a coach who loved to let his players express themselves, the international level playing structures seemed to be too antithesis, while the inconsistencies in selections – again, rarely his fault – also left him unable to achieve that which he had been able to at Toulouse.

Capacities for his teams to wow
But whatever the recent criticisms thrown his way, nobody should forget what Novès contributed to the game of rugby at Toulouse, the abilities and calibre of player he developed and nurtured, the capacities for his teams to wow.

That should be a legacy that lasts far longer than his time in charge of a national team governed by a national rugby framework in desperate need of a large shake-up.

His sacking smacks of scapegoating in some ways – which should be another reason Noves should proudly disassociate himself from the FFR and reflect on two decades of terrific rugby his Toulouse teams gave to us all.

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