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War dance before a game of hockey? It's true

Jaspreet Sahni | http://jaspreet_sahni

Updated: February 21, 2013, 3:12 PM IST
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War dance before a game of hockey? It's true
Hector Smith, the captain of the Fiji hockey team, tells about the ritualistic dance his team performs before the match.

"It's spelled see eye bee eye (Cibi), but pronounced thimbi." I erred, "Cibi?" and was quickly corrected. "No, no! Thimbi," he stressed and then schooled me again - until my phonetics satisfied him.

Hector Smith, the captain of the Fiji hockey team, merrily told me about the war dance his team performs before every match. His team had just been hammered 13-0 by Ireland, but he wasn't flustered. "This is big learning experience for Fiji," he said, before continuing to talk about Cibi.

"It's a tradition in Fiji - before you go for any sort of test or competition. It's meant to motivate and get you ready for a fight," Smith said of the war dance, as he stood shoulder to shoulder besides his father, Hector Smith. The father and son share the same name.

"But we don't seek any divine help by doing this," Smith Sr put my next question to rest before I could ask. "We believe in improving our skills and play attacking hockey." 16-0 and 13-0. Surely they don't defend, just attack.

Cibi has made more headlines than anything else Fiji have done in the FIH World League at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium so far. "It has definitely lifted our spirits since we started doing this," Smith Jr stoned the silence.

My next question, after an "Okay."

"Since when are you doing this?" (The original version of Cibi has been performed by the Fiji rugby team since 1939.)

"We were taught this in 2005. One of the Fiji basketball players came and taught this to us," Smith Jr replied, but didn't know the name of the player. "Coach, do you know who taught this to your boys?" I turned to Smith Sr. "No, I can't recall." Case closed.

"It's unfortunate we haven't been able to convert the few chances we have got. But we strive to keep improving," Very few chances, Smith Sr should have said. But he was successful in diverting my attention from Cibi to hockey.

We continued.

"So is it just you two in the Smith family who play hockey?" This time Smith Jr stepped forward to reply. "No. My brother Alsace Smith is in the team as well and my mother Senimili Smith is the manager of the team." I doubled up as a fan now.

"Father, mother and their two sons part of the same team. That's unheard of," I addressed Smith Sr in a state of surprise. "No, my daughter too plays for the women's national team. But had to take a break from this event as she is pregnant." Make that five.

"I started playing hockey with a mangrove stick and some fruit as a ball." Surely I had strummed Smith Sr's nostalgic chord. "Then when I had kids, I taught them as well. Then my wife got involved and became interested in the game's administrative arm," he went on.

Cibi, pronounced thimbi, was left behind and the Smiths had taken over.

First Published: February 21, 2013, 3:12 PM IST
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