Ragomo rising from the ashes

It was there that the Solomon Islands fell 7-3 to New Zealand’s Futsal Whites, a memory that Ragomo struggles to erase from his mind even today.
“For us boys, the loss is vivid in our minds,” he says.
But the 4-1 victory the Kurukuru eked out over New Zealand on Match Day 3 of the 2016 OFC Futsal Championship was evidence that the side has recovered somewhat and are restoring some of the glory they feel they lost in that defeat.
“I think back in 2013 the key for us was preparation. You have to prepare, you have to be prepared physically and mentally and for us Solomon Islanders, spiritually as well,” Ragomo says.
“That loss meant a lot to us, and to me personally, because I was playing. And for me as a player I don’t want to lose – no-one wants to lose.”
Ragomo says the objectives for his side here in Fiji are clear – qualify for their third consecutive FIFA Futsal World Cup.
Anything less is just not an option.
“I came to this tournament and we came to this tournament, to play and to qualify. I’m thankful to Juliano (Schmeling, Solomon Islands coach), OFC and everyone for all the effort they’ve made for us. And our boys too for all the hard work to get here.
“We’re taking it one game at a time and it’s positive, but it’s not over yet. We have two more games to go and I hope we can do our country proud.”
The Kurukuru, led by Ragomo, did just that on Wednesday evening when they took on New Zealand in a high intensity, high stakes showdown for top spot.
“For us, for me personally, it’s a big thing,” Ragomo says.
“I think I go out there and play with my whole heart and I couldn’t believe that I could score the first goal. But I trust in my boys and I trust in myself and it’s a good feeling for me to come out here and play a big tournament like this in Oceania.
“I’m very proud and I’m very happy.”
While Ragomo is in lightening form, the captain almost didn’t make here to Fiji.
“I think five months, six months ago, for some of us and for myself, I really didn’t think I could be standing here talking to you guys,” he says.
“But I’m really thankful for some people in my life who really pushed me on and for the changes and process I went through to become who I am now.”
When pressed about what he has been doing since that fateful tournament in 2013, Ragomo chokes up.
“I’m sorry, I’m…Elliot Ragomo was not Elliot Ragomo back then. I’m telling you now that Elliot Ragomo is back and I’m very proud to say that because for me, it’s very hard,” he says.
“In my life I went through a lot of things and I’m really thankful that I can stand here, that I can go out there on that court and prove to Oceania that I want to be a champion.
“And I do want to be a champion.”
Ragomo says what really got him down was the lack of futsal opportunities in the Solomon Islands.
“In 2013 I nearly gave up because there was nothing for us in the Solomons,” he recalls, “there was no league, nothing.
“But I’m thankful that we kept going, that we never backed down because I faced a lot of criticism saying ‘Elliot’s too old, he’s not fit’. But here I am.”
It comes as a surprise to hear Ragomo say he considered giving up because at 24 years old, he’s yet to hit his prime in most elite sports.
However he says it’s just critics having a go, and with age and experience he’s learning to let those things go.
“People just look at me and say ‘you’re too old’, but for me it doesn’t matter the age as long as you keep going and keep scoring the goals,” he says.
“If I get to 30 and I’m still playing the way I play now and the coach thinks I’m good enough, pick me. Because I want to do good things for my country, I want to do good things for the Oceania region.
“We want to go out to the world and make a statement that Oceania teams are not beatable teams. We can compete with the world.”
WIth two matches to go in the chase for the title, Solomon Islands are keeping their heads in the game and are concentrating on their objective.
“We’re taking it one game at a time and it’s positive,” he says.
“But it’s not over yet. We have two more games to go and I hope we can do our country proud.”

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