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All aboard with Fiji at the Olympics By Ulf Zimmermann, dpa

Europe
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Belo Horizonte, Brazil (dpa) - Many fans will be sad to see Fiji‘s footballers depart the Olympic stage when the play Germany on Wednesday.

After two heavy defeats, the Fijians are already eliminated and will be on their way home once they have played the Germans in Belo Horizonte.

As rank outsiders, the Pacific island nation on its Olympic football debut was not a real medal contender. But among football‘s star-studded elite they have been a welcome addition to the Games.

When the players led by Australian coach Frank Farina arrived at Belo Horizonte-Confins airport to load up the team bus a group of five journalists needed a lift.

No problem, join us, Farina said.

In the bus, it was just as easy going. The CD recorder was turned on and reggae rhythms accompanied the players on their 50-minute journey. With a police escort, Fiji‘s part-timers must have felt like state guests.

Of course, selfies were taken. We learned meanwhile a little from Farina about the existence of football in the shadow of rugby, the people‘s sport, and the fact that many in the team have jobs and are sometimes absent from training courses. Midfielder Ratu Nakalevu says most of the players in the Olympic squad are in job training.

Preparations for the Games were severely influenced by cyclone Winstone in spring which left thousands homeless, Farina explains.

And again and again the Fijians look wide-eyed as all obstacles on the way to the team hotel are swept aside by the police riders.

"It is really something special," Farina says as he leaves the shuttle at the team hotel. "I‘ll see you on Wednesday."

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