May 18, 2022
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Soejima relishes his Japanese 7s inclusion

Fiji-born Kameli Soejima expressed the hardships he faced in order to make it into the Japanese 7s squad for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics last year. 
 
Soejima said making his 7s international debut in 2014 Dubai 7s was not easy as some people may think so. 
 
"Basically a typical Fijian kid growing up in Fiji. I started playing rugby just around the house. My father was my first coach and all my cousins played rugby and he said why don't really concentrate on playing rugby because you are good."
 
"But I didn't really play rugby until I was 17. Probably I did not have confidence in myself that I could make it."
 
The loss of his mum got him in the wrong shoes but later he realised his rugby talent and got to work.
 
"My mum passed away when I was still in Primary school and it was pretty hard because you can say I’m a mummy's boy."
 
"Without my mum I went out of the way and did things which I was not supposed to do. But every time growing up and thinking about things that I have done she would not be proud of but losing her kind of made me realise I have to do something by myself and that’s how I started believing in myself."
 
The 39-year-old revealed that language barrier led to people mocking him yet he stayed determined and the encouragement from his wife boosted him.
 
"I was the unknown in the team."
 
"Not being able to speak Japanese, I was laughed at for wanting to play for Japan."
 
"My whole life changed when I went international. Rugby was my passport to the world."
 
"I met my wife Aya Soejima during a local 7s tournament in Fiji. After she left Fiji, we kept in touch and she asked me if I wanted to come to Japan and I said are you serious? I’d love to come to Japan."
 
"We kept this as a secret and her mum said you should tell your dad about it and for that afternoon I was afraid to meet him. And two weeks before returning, we got married." 
 
Japan's top try-scorer in the 2015–16 World Rugby 7s Series also said his friends told him that it was impossible for a road construction worker to play rugby but change in passport got him in the squad. 
 
"I worked in construction for 7 years. My father-in-law, one of his friends, owns a construction company. Apart from doing construction, we were looking for a rugby club I can join. My father-in-law asked me what I wanted to do so I told him I wanted to play for Japan."
 
"Trying to play for the Japan 7s team was a little difficult."
 
"I have to work extra hard to prove myself. If you really want to play for Japan, one way to make things easy is to change your passport."
 
"changed my passport and became Japanese. Came here for trials for the Japan national 7s team. They thought I was good so they asked me to come again."
 
The 39-year-old revealed his Olympic dream was on the verge of getting shattered after being hit by an injury in 2015.
 
"After making my debut at Dubai and Capetown, back then I was still working as a road construction worker and also playing for Tagarua even though my wife thought it was a bad idea and I got injured as I tore my ACL. I thought that was the end of it. All the work I did for playing for Japan."
 
"Not making the squad for the Rio Olympics qualifier, I really wanted to be part of it. Pretty depressed knowing how long it will take for me to do rehabilitation. I almost gave up but my wife encouraged me."
 
"After my third son was born, my wife said we will name him Rio after the 2016 Olympics because that’s the reason why I worked hard."
 
He added the distressful months of rehabilitation was just another road that made him become an Olympian. 
 
"I started doing more training and ran full time in the week and went to gym twice weekly after work."
 
"They announced the name and my name was in it. I poured my eyes out in front of everyone. Pretty emotional."
 
"We managed to beat New Zealand in the first game. Japan reaching the top four was proud and emotional and they said the Olympics moved to 2021 because of COVID and same time I had to prove my daughter that I want to be an Olympian and that was special."
 
"I have stopped seeing my age. I have stopped telling people my age. I still play rugby."
 
By Romeka Romena 


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