Ben Baselala, player for the Rugby Club Auxerrois - « Discovering Fiji Rugbymen in France »
First name: Peni Waqairoba (Ben)
Date of Birth: 28/02/1987
Place of Birth: Sigatoka Hospital
Club: Rugby Club Auxerrois (Auxerre)
Position: Utility backs
Marital Status: Single
Ben Baselala is a young Fijian rugby player, born in Sigatoka on February 28th, 1987. He started to play while he was at the primary school in Saivou, Ra. His family remembers that “whenever he could, he would kick a ball, go to the park and train, every single day”. After playing for the Suva Highlanders under-21 team and the Naitasiri Senior Team, he flew to France in 2010 to join Auxerre, his current club.
Created on February 14th, 1970; the Rugby Club Auxerrois is a club of Fédérale 3 (3rd Division). The team colours are red and green.
Ben Baselala kindly agreed to answer our questions for the French Embassy website section “Discovering Fiji’s Rugbymen in France”. Here is his exclusive interview!
Q: Which part of Fiji are you from originally? Where did you grow up?
A: Well, we moved a lot as my dad used to work for Fijian Affairs as a Roko Tui (Government representative to provincial councils). So, I grew up in Navosa, and spent my young days in Nukuloa, Saivou, Ra, before moving back to the capital (Suva).
Q: When did you start playing rugby?
A: I started at a young age, while I was in primary school, in Saivou District School in Ra.
Q: When did you start playing professionally? What clubs have you played in? Tell us briefly about your rugby career. (Your progress through to where you are now)
A: The current club that I am playing for, Auxerre, is my first professional club. I signed up in 2010. I started playing for the Naitasiri Colts in 2006, whilst attending Nabua Secondary School. Then, in 2007, I played for the Suva Highlanders under-21 team and eventually, in 2009, I joined the Naitasiri Senior Team.
I’m happy with the small progress that I have made and I’m looking forward for more opportunities that will come and the new challenges that will come with it.
Q: What was the “triggering factor” that made you decide to go to France? How did you manage to find (contact) a club in France?
A: It is every young boy’s dream to play for Fiji or to play overseas….I had an agent back home and I am very grateful to him for choosing me for this job. I have never looked back since. I always thank God for this and for everything he has done in my life. Coming to France was really different. First, here, they are very proud of their language, and secondly, it is really far from home!
Q: What has changed in your life since you started playing professionally?
A: Well, playing professionally, you have to look after yourself. Be careful with what you eat and recovery after training. You also have to be smart (money wise) to have savings for a rainy day because you won’t play rugby all your life. Also you must have a Plan B for your future!
Q: When you first arrived in France, what shocked or surprised you the most?
A: Paris…the traffic, language, people and the Eiffel Tower…it’s really big!
Q: What do you think are the biggest differences between living in Fiji and living in France?
A: Culture, food…the life style is totally different from home, for example: like the “FIJI TIME”.
Q: Is your family with you in France? If not, how often do you visit them?
A: My family is in Fiji but I visit them during breaks in summer.
Q: Why did you decide to come and play in France?
A: Rugby here is really growing fast, the style of rugby is different back home but it’s also a learning experience playing here in France.
Q: What do you like most about France?
A: People…you meet different kinds with different beliefs and cultures. The food is really, really GOOD! The cheese is something else, the taste….
Q: What do you miss the most?
A: My family back home and the Fiji food.
Q: What is your most memorable match moment as a player?
A: Playing the elimination game (France) against former Samoa International, Terry Fonolua, on the other team. And every game I play here is always memorable to me.
Q: And your most memorable moment as a spectator?
A: Watching Racing-Métro vs Toulouse in the Stade de France.
Q: Favourite player?
A: Henry Paul, Greg Inglis.
Q: How are you coping with your fame as an overseas professional rugby player?
A: I’m very humble about my achievement and I thank God for the talent. I don’t take it as fame because I don’t want to be seen as a different person.
Q: When your overseas rugby career ends, would you consider returning to play for Fiji?
A: Yes, if given an opportunity, I would be grateful for that.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
A: Achieving all my goals, playing top level rugby, having a family and being a better person.
Q: Who inspires you the most?
A: Dad and Mom.
Q: We hear many sports people have a lucky charm (special shorts, etc) or even a special ritual they use/do before a big game; do you have one? If yes, what is it?
A: The Lord’s Prayer before every game.
Q: Thank you very much, Ben.
Rugby Club Auxerrois website: http://www.rugby-auxerre.fr
Fédérale 3 Results: http://www.rugbyrama.fr/rugby/federale-3/event.shtml