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Fiji's Binatagi giving back to the game he loves

Suva (Fiji) - Marika Binatagi is what you would call a basketball lifer in the Fiji basketball scene, the national team member has been involved with Basketball Federation (BF) development programs since 2008.

Binatagi, who represented Fiji in the 2019 Pacific Games is a regular volunteer coach in BF's Hoops For Health (H4H) programs since its inception in 2014.

"I have been working with Basketball Fiji, on and off since 2008 after I graduated primary school. Lai (BF Chief Operating Officer) and I knew each other during that time. When H4H was introduced I immediately signed up to help, " he shared. "It was a no brainer for me because I love playing basketball and it was a dream for me to represent my country so I wanted to get involved."

Binatagi shared that through basketball he was able to join the Fiji Police Force which has given him a vocation that he is very proud of.

"I was discovered by Fiji Police through basketball because the force was delivering community programs in Rwanga in 2011 and we played some basketball in between sessions," shared Binatagi.

"Through that program, I was able to talk to them about recruitment and was able to join. I also eventually represented the force in basketball tournaments," he added.

Unfortunately for Binatagi, he was suspended from police duty in 2017 and had to wait for reinstatement this year.

"When I was unemployed and waiting to go back to the force, I focused all my energies into volunteering for Basketball Fiji. I have learned a lot and trying to be a better person through basketball," Binatagi shared.

"It was a tough time for me but the Federation was there to support me and I used the time away to focus on improving myself to be able to go back again," he added.

Binatagi shared that he is passionate about serving as a role model to the youth, he wants to help direct the kids he teaches to a better life. The Fijian native also intimated that through BF's development programs the opportunity has given him the inspiration to continue his quest.

"I love basketball, it has given a lot of opportunities and also a lot of lessons in my life. I want to share everything I have learned to my younger Fijian brothers and sisters. I believe in the programs we deliver and we see the results immediately because we see the improvement and the enthusiasm for the game improve," he shared.

"Being part of the program gives me and my fellow coaches such inspiration and also being a coach has taught me to be a better parent and also to the kids in my community. I would not trade the experience for anything," he added.

Basketball has led Binatagi to find his vocation in the Police Force, representing the national team and making a difference with his community, the 29-year old promised that he will continue his work with BF and help as much as he can.

"I have been on the train-on squad since 2013 and represented my country the first time last year, I hope to be able to play again in 2023 so I can continue to serve as a role model to the youth. I am extremely grateful what basketball has given me and I want to give back to it as much as I can in any way that I can," he proudly shared.

The Hoops for Health program under the Basketball For Good strategy of Basketball Fiji is supported by the Australian Government through the Pacific Sports Partnerships, and FIBA's Foundation, the International Basketball Foundation.