This is what Football fanatics look like on the Pacific Islands.
Solomon Warriors Football Club was put to the sword against Auckland City FC in the OFC Champions’ League quarter final on Sunday the 8th of April 2018, but the club’s players and fans didn’t go down without fight and fiesta at the Freyberg Field. With all credit still going to the Navy Blues for their clear victory, the 2-0 scoreline was overshadowed by the compelling festivities led by the Solomon Warriors fans around the ground for the entirety of the afternoon.
You may be relatively unfamiliar with the Solomon Islands. A collection of Pacific islands eastward of Papua New Guinea and approximately 2,000 miles northward of New Zealand, the Solomon Islands were granted independence from the United Kingdom in 1978. In popular Western culture, the Solomon Islands are probably best known as the scene of one of the major WWII conflicts in the Pacific region. The Battle of Henderson Field saw the American forces, who had been occupying Guadalcanal and other neighbouring islands that now make up the Solomon Islands, fight off Japanese imperial invaders who sought to expand their presence in the Pacific region by progressively occupying more territory. Henderson airstrip, which is close to modern day capital Honiara, was the main focal point of the conflict, as the Americans understood the strategic importance of control of the airstrip.
That very airstrip remains critical to Guadalcanal’s and Honiara’s economy, and is incidentally not too far from the home of the Solomon Warriors Football Club. Honiara itself is a young city of which we have little historical record prior to Western contact with the island. Thanks to its status as the national capital, Honiara has prospered both economically and demographically since the dawn of independence. The city, located on the Northern Coast of Guadalcanal, is the administrative, political, cultural and commercial capital of the Solomon Islands. Widespread migration to the city through the past half century has been seen not only from other parts of the country and greater Melanesia but also internationally. The city is known for its famous Chinatown, and sadly, its infamous riots in 2006, which saw widespread destruction of said Chinatown and the displacement of many residents. While the stereotype of typically passive, peaceful Pacific Islanders is an easy one to conceive, it is worth noting that large-scale violence is not exactly unprecedented in the Solomon Islands; tensions between various ethnic groups led to frequent violent clashes in Honiara during the ’90s.
However, if violent tendencies are in some way a key characteristic of the Solomon national personality, we were unable to observe them during the game in question. The Solomon Islanders present at the match (some had indeed travelled for the fixture) were very gregarious, fun-loving and joyous. They celebrated the fact that their Warriors were putting up such a good fight while taking advantage of the occasion for a big-time piss-up. Their Football culture and match traditions were a stark contrast to the very Anglocised standing and chanting of the Auckland City fans present. Rhythmic music was played from electronic devices and much hip-thrusting and booty-shaking was performed by inebriated Warriors fans all afternoon long. There was little in the way of derogatory or slanderous name-calling of opponents. Instead the objective of the Solomon Warriors fans was to encourage as many fellow fans as possible to join in with the party.
Solomon Warriors FC is also known by the name “Wantoks”, which is a colloqiual term heard across many Pacific Island states that indiscriminately refers to any close Melanesian friend or relative. The fantastically striking design of the Solomon Warriors FC badge eludes to that historic Melanesian pan-Pacific culture, suggesting that the “Wantok” nickname may be appropriate. Maybe it’s just me, but the decision by a Pacific Island Football club to use a badge that replicates Melanesian artwork and tradition instead of an overly corporate Americanised logo is admirable. Do the Solomon Warriors fans that we spent time with at the match accurately represent the larger Melanesian / Pacific Island Football culture? We are unsure, but be sure to enjoy this collection of snaps taken on the day.