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Tonga lose 71-70, but their presence alone is a win - Nov 22, 2018

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The Tonga men's national basketball team lost their opening game of the FIBA Polynesian Cup, but the greater victory was the fact they got on the court at all. As of last week Tonga were going to have to pull out of the tournament, not having the funding to afford accommodation here in Samoa. But a number of Pacific Rugby Player Welfare (P.R.P.W.) board members became aware of the situation through Facebook and acted quickly to donate the money required for Tonga's trip. Tonga lost their first game yesterday in heartbreaking fashion, losing 70-71 to American Samoa. But captain/coach Aminiasi Malua said it's bigger than just basketball for them at the moment. 'We're so grateful to P.R.P.W., IPL Construction in New Zealand, and everyone who individually gave.' Co-captain Siale Bain-Vete (188-G-81) agreed. 'Its very special that we're here in the first place,' he said P.R.P.W. CEO Daniel Leo said once the news got around everyone was keen to approve the giving of funds. 'We thought it would be a shame if they couldn't make it,' he said. 'A lot of our rugby guys have backgrounds in other sports. 'Plus we know rugby gets a pretty good deal compared to those other sports. 'This is a testament to sports and our Pacific culture.' The most encouraging thing for Leo was that Tonga have already signalled their intention to pay it forward. 'This means the world to us and we hope we might be in a better position in the future to show the same kindness to someone else in need,' Malua said to Leo.
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