The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 18) – In Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, there are people who follow animals. Nothing unusual in that as in folklore and tradition, animals have always figured prominently in almost everyone’s life since time immemorial.

The mystique surrounding animals go back in time to the days of our ancestors, who held animals and birds in high esteem because of the important role animals played in the livelihood of our people and the cycle of survival.

They weren’t just good for eating. They, or more precisely parts of them, figured prominently in social and economic situations and continue to do so today, even more prominently in the recreation and field diversion sector.

One of these animals is the prehistoric creature known as the crocodile or croc for short.

The crocodile has its circle of human following, the numbers sometimes rising to thousands during peak season.

In today’s contemporary society, many are involved in or have heard much about pastimes such as bird watching and butterfly watching. The list goes on but crocodile watching is probably something most have never heard of.

However, among a certain sector of our society, crocodile watching is an activity that takes precedence over any other human activity and as mentioned earlier, their numbers increase to thousands during the peak seasons.

These people loved the crocodile. It was everything to them. They lived it, slept it, ate it, you name it, they’ve done it. They are known to have become violent and self-destructive, soften imposing hunger-strikes upon themselves to show their distress at the dismal showing of the crocodile.

Lately, a lot of questions had been posed – where have all the crocodiles gone?

And as a tune goes with "where have all the flowers gone" verily, the believers or rather the crocodile watchers are crying out with despondency, "long time passing, when will they ever return …?"

"They are probably in hibernation," one suggestion that Siuke, a long-time crocodile watcher offered during the debate on the subject.

"Some seasons, they come out in force, bringing much delight into our lives. Then other times, they just lie low and refuse to budge, creating anxiety and misery in our lives."

Siuke and his colleagues want to see the return of the crocodiles back in their habitat doing what comes naturally.

They want the cheers and the ‘oohs and aahs’ back in their lives. They want to come back home and revel in the joy of the invigorating experience with their families.

Yes, they’ve been missing that miserably and life’s not the same again in their tight circle ever since.

Previously, whereas the crocodile figured prominently in their excited weekend conversations, these days, there is hardly anything on the subject to talk about.

They recall years ago, when a weekend’s outing provided them with enough ammunition to shoot off their mouths in cheers and glee over the crocodile’s highly successful outing.

They would go back the following week, even if they had to beg, steal or borrow, just to catch their icon in its regular habitat. With that enthusiasm came the high expectations of an even better showmanship and if they were lucky, an extra bonus thrown in for their benefit.

Often that bonus came in the form of ‘natural selection’ – not in the sense of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, but rather the involvement of their favourite crocodiles at a higher level of showmanship.

And we pause here to ponder the issue, where’d did it all go wrong?

Since independence and even pre-independence, the crocodiles, crocs or as they says in their Toaripi lingo, Isapea or Siapea, had gone out of fashion at the highest level of football – representative football.

The crocodiles referred in this context are the Keremas or players of Gulf origin, whose numbers had blessed the national representative sides since self-government in 1975.

Distinctly of lofty stature, the Keremas were gifted footballer with an open flare to entertain the spectators – the watchers.

There were the likes of (former Kumuls) Kavora Posu, Eka Fae, Mahuru Paul Tore, Jack Metta, Sukope Iko, James Miviri, Kaiva Kako, Farapo Malala, Kepi Saea, Roy Heni, Bobby Ako, Clement Mou, half croc Mark Mom, Tuksy Karu and the Kouoru brothers Gideon, Haoda and Joshua.

Every year since independence, there was no shortage of a crocodile or three in the Kumuls squad until several years ago, when the last bastion of these crocodiles in Tuksy, Gideon, Haoda and Joshua took off their much-cherished Kumul jumpers and hung up their boots for good.

Even Haoda and Tuksy are in agreement that it is disappointing not to hear the crocodiles roar in the latest national representative selections and on the playing paddock.

In a recent conversation with 1976-77 Kumul Metta, all agreed that the absence of crocodiles at the top level of football is a total letdown for the benchmark set by the crocodiles of years between 1975 and 2000.

The explanation for these are varied but one factor that seems to stand out like a sore thumb is the lack of discipline and commitment that the crocodiles who made the Kumuls ranks in years gone by, had shown.

"I guess it’s the latest lifestyles that they lead; they are open and subjected to a lot of bad influences now than before which, coupled with their struggles in a harsh environment, they find an outlet, just to forget the realities of their real world," Tuksy ponders.

"In the process, they lose focus of their involvement in the game and go astray."

Haoda agreed saying he was concerned that the pride of the Keremas is not there anymore.

"Everyone is madly passionate about his game and his team but at the representative level, we might all support the national team and our ardour will be all that more intensive if we have people who are from our region, or who speak the same lingo out there carrying, not only the nation’s flag and the pride of his family, but the name of his own people and region as well."

They agree that that pride needs to be rekindled and fanned into something akin to a religious fever.

Both believe Gulf people and particularly business houses and former crocodiles-cum-ex-Kumuls need to play a role in fanning this flame to rejuvenate the present day crocodiles into formidable playing machines and bring the pride and glory of yore back into the country, the Gulf province and most of all, in the homes of simple guys like Siuke and company.

There are plans, of course, to nurture the crocodiles at their source, but that’s another story.

Suffice, it is to echo the Wise Counsellor’s words: "God who needs nothing, brings into existence wholly unnecessary creatures so that he may love and perfect them …"

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