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TUA FIGHT: Super Sporting Saturday in Samoa

By Jeremy Rose in Samoa

It’s being billed as Super Sporting Saturday in Samoa. A day which will start at 4.30am Saturday Samoan time (Samoa is 24 hours behind NZ) with the Manu Samoa vs Wales test, continues with the league World Cup quarter-final between Toa Samoa and world champs Australia and then climaxes with the David Tua’s shot at the world heavy weight title.

But it is the David Tua fight which has galvanised the nation of 170,000.

Policemen, taxi drivers and what seems like half the population are wearing the ulafala necklaces popularised by Samoa’s favourite sporting son.

The ulafala, usually only worn by high ranking matai, have become so popular that the Samoa Observer is reporting that they have more than doubled in price and are now selling for about $30 (tala), a considerable sum in a country where the minimum wage is just $1.45.

Demand for the necklaces, both in Samoa and among Samoan communities in New Zealand and the US, is such that the red fruit of the pandanus tree from which necklaces are made are now said to be in short supply.

Inhabitants of David Tua’s village, Faleatiu, can be spotted by their distinctive ulafala which incorporate two pieces of tapa on the back of the necklaces which spell out the words “Tua Man”.

Everyone you ask from school kids to taxi drivers are convinced Tua is going to win. And you get the feeling that to say otherwise would be tantamount to treason.

Pre-schoolers and primary school children are putting on performances to celebrate Tua’s achievement in obtaining a shot at the title and church services are being held throughout the country to enable people to pray for David Tua.

New Zealander Peter West says he hasn’t seen anything like it in the three years he’s been in Samoa as a Volunteer Service Abroad volunteer.

West, the principal of the Loto Taumafai Education Centre for the Disabled, says the “country is going crazy” over the fight.

“Our kids are putting on a mime performance which will be filmed by the local television station,” he says.

Gatoloaifaaona Tilianamua Afamasaga, the dean of education, at the National University of Samoa says there’s been a noticeable improvement in the standard of dress as a result of people wearing the ulafalas. “You can’t wear any old thing with a ulafala, so where people might have worn a tee-shirt now they’re wearing a shirt.”
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“I hate the sport of boxing but I am as excited as everyone else by the fight,” she says.

“Everyone is joined together for the country, for the culture, it’s wonderful.”

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