From MALUM NALU in Lae
Former Kumul rugby league captain John Wilshere was a big hit in Lae over the weekend in the lead-up to the inaugural Ahi Festival which he officially opens at the Sir Ignatius Kilage Stadium today (Sunday).
Wilshere, the last captain of the respected Kumul sides which won the Pacific Cup in 2009 under coach Adrian Lam before this year’s well-known disaster at the Four Nations, is the ambassador of the festival and a true son of Ahi from Butibam village.
He got the ball rolling by leading a 20-strong motorcade through pothole and crime-infested Lae to promote the festival last Friday and continued his tour de force the next day with a visit to each of the six Ahi villages – Yalu, Kamkumung, Hengali, Butibam, Yanga and seaside Wagang – to present them their uniforms and sporting equipment.
It was just in time for Christmas as Wilshere put smiles on the faces of the long-suffering Ahi people.
The festival, a weeklong extravaganza of Ahi sports and culture including a Miss Ahi pageant, begins tomorrow (Monday) after today's opening.
Wilshere was accompanied by key organisers including Riback Stevedores operations manager George Gware and games coordinator, former champion sportsman Bob Aaron.
He was feted like royalty at each of the six villages, who laid out the red carpet and welcomed him with traditional song and dance, and plied him with gifts.
Wilshere’s message at each of the six Ahi villages was simple: nothing was impossible with discipline, hard work and commitment.
“I ask that you all play fair and may the best team won!” was his resounding message.
The festival, the first and biggest of its kind to be held in Lae, is aimed at promoting Ahi culture, unity, social issue awareness and showcase local talent in sport, music and business.
Proceeds of the festival will go towards building a resource centre to be known as Ahi Resource Centre which would have a library, computer laboratory, and conference room and workshop facilities.