The women breaking down barriers and pioneering sports commentary in Fiji

The women breaking down barriers and pioneering sports commentary in Fiji

Saturday 03/02/2024
Adi Lewanavanua had a chance to commentate at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.(Supplied)

A significant shift is occurring in Fiji as more women are making remarkable strides in the traditionally male-dominated field of sports commentary.

Adi Lewanavanua is a notable figure in this wave of change. She is a former national representative in football as a player and coach, with a rich history in sports administration over the past two decades.

Lewanavanua has always aspired to be "different", and after a game of football, she would playfully commentate, cracking a joke, but she never considered commentary as a career path.

She has taken her opportunities and, as part of ABC International Development's Women in News and Sport Initiative, has provided training and mentoring for female commentators in the Asia-Pacific region.

Lewanavanua says it's important for players to be given pathways into areas like commentating once they retire.

"Getting into the commentary like [other commentators] Asinate Wainiqolo and Eleina McDonald was through sports journalism," Lewanavanua said.

"But for the rest of us having no other background apart from sports was impossible."

Lewanavanua commentated at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, and her versatility and commitment to promoting gender equality in sports commentary have earned her widespread respect in the industry.

And she wants to see others follow her path.

"Sports commentary comes with passion. When you choose this field, you study, eat and sleep the sports you look into," she said.

"You are the voice behind the product. Don't just talk, sell the product.

"Your representation depicts the picture of every woman who will take that seat tomorrow.

"Gender equality is promoted through women's groups and campaigns, but if mainstream media do not give it the space to grow, we will never grow."

Hear Us Roar is a recently released anthology of emerging women football writers, featuring 17 contributors from 11 countries.

The final submissions were selected following a global contest, and Lewanavanua's article, Coconut Football: A Bittersweet Relationship, was included in the publication, where she writes about her journey in football.

McDonald makes her mark

Eleina McDonald is another pioneering figure in Fijian sport.

She is a respected sportswoman in her own right having represented Fiji in rugby union, basketball and hockey, and with a profound passion for all things sport.

She also has extensive experience in sports administration and media, which allowed her to easily transition to the commentary box.

McDonald has worked across many sports including rugby, football and athletics, and is excited to see new talent break through.

"I'm absolutely buzzed to be in this space," McDonald said, noting commentary wasn't something she aspired to do, however being a "chatterbox" made it easier.

"It's great to see more women who have been technical officials or former players in this space, but also those in sports journalism, sales and marketing," McDonald said.

And she has some advice for others looking to make the move.

"Never presume to know everything or speak on behalf of others, do your research and know how to wing it and be adaptable," she said.

"Commentary is an art, having to think on your feet, and you can only get it with experience.

"Fresh voices, especially female voices, provide a breath of fresh air and women commentators have become more technical and more knowledgeable."

As McDonald and Lewanavanua continue to make their mark in sports commentary, their journey serves as an inspiration for aspiring female commentators across Fiji.

Their success highlights the importance of mentoring, training, and collaboration in fostering a more inclusive and diverse sports media landscape.

In a country where sports hold immense cultural significance, the emergence of women in sports commentary marks a transformative moment.

It signals a departure from traditional norms and heralds a new era where women are recognised and celebrated for their expertise and passion in the male-dominated world of sports commentary.

The impact of this change is sure to resonate for years to come, leaving a lasting legacy for future generations of women in Fijian sports journalism.

Mel Saga'itu-Atalifo is a marketing and social media professional by day, sports commentator and unwavering sports enthusiast by choice, injecting a dynamic edge into the world of sports with insightful commentary and a passion for the game.

She is a member of ABC International Development's Women in News and Sport Initiative, funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the Team Up program.

Story By: WINS / By Mel Saga'itu-Atalifo in Fiji

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