Union chief hails sevens teams for spreading gospel
Trevor Gregory leads praise while legend Serevi tells parents about game's life-changing impact
A fulsome tribute was paid by Hong Kong Rugby Football Union chief Trevor Gregory to all the teams who were spending time inspiring local youngsters in the build-up to this weekend's action, while the legendary Waisale Serevi reminded Hong Kong parents that the game can "change your [child's] life".
Gregory yesterday praised all 28 teams competing in the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens for taking the time to get involved with the local community. The HKRFU estimates that nearly 10,000 children would come in contact with the world's leading players before the event kicks off on Friday, and stressed this interaction was a key part of the success of the Hong Kong Sevens.
"Everyone thinks the Hong Kong Sevens is just about the action on the weekend. But it is something larger than that. And we are thankful for the teams who want to go out into the schools," Gregory said. "To meet a world-class player is something a small child will never forget."
And they don't come any bigger than Serevi, who is spreading the message by using a personal anecdote to drive home the point.
Serevi is probably the greatest sevens player the world has witnessed - his results in Hong Kong justify that after he led Fiji to seven Cup titles including two World Cups, in 1997 and 2005.
"When my dad was a boy, his mum used to make him lunch which was two pieces of bread with no butter on it, only jam," Serevi said. "He took this to school along with water in a plastic bottle. When it was time for the lunch interval, he would climb a tree in the schoolyard so his classmates wouldn't see him eating his sandwich of which he was ashamed of.
"This story was something which pushed me to work harder than the others. I never had it easy but that story my father told me made me determined to work hard on the pitch. And it paid off. Rugby can change your life."
Serevi, who is now based in Seattle in the US, is involved in spreading the gospel of rugby. Partnering him in Serevi Rugby is former England captain Ben Gollings and the pair have struck up a partnership with the HKRFU to propagate the game across the local community this week.
"You have to prepare and work hard, both mentally and physically," Serevi said.
"There are no short cuts but what rugby can do is give you opportunities in life. Parents in Hong Kong must realise how much this sport has to offer. I'm an example. I had nothing, but today everything I have got, I have to thank rugby, and especially the Hong Kong Sevens, for this is where it all began for me," Serevi added.
Among the teams who visited schools yesterday were Australia (Australian International School), Fiji (La Salle College), Scotland (Harrow International School as well as local schools in Tuen Mun and the Sarah Roe Jockey Club School) and United States (Hong Kong International School).
Other sides who have in the past few days also rubbed shoulders with local schoolchildren include Russia and Canada.
England took part last Sunday at the Valley Fort mini-rugby day in Stanley.
"We enjoy coming to the school each year and it's fantastic to meet such enthusiastic students," said Australia team manager Luca Luissi.
AIS student Olivia Longbottom said: "It was really cool that they took time out of their trip to come to our school."
Sevens blog: Pro road is the only one to travel http://www.scmp.com/hongkongsevens