Israel scores goals in Tonga

February 13, 2012 by Kevin Milstein
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The Embassies of Israel in Australia and New Zealand in a joint effort with the ReaganMilstein Foundation have donates sporting goods to the people of Tonga.

Kevin Milstein has written this report:

Tongan kids sport their new uniforms

Over the last few months RMF has been working on a project with the kingdom of Tonga and the government of Israel. To put it simply the government of Israel wanted to make a positive difference to some of the smallest countries in the world, the islands of the South Pacific. Their first target was the kingdom of Tonga.

They were looking for a point of difference when the ambassador, Yuval Rotem, approached me. He had heard that we were running a football foundation and wanted to know if we would partner him in donating sporting goods to the people of Tonga.

Keeping Reagan’s ideals of helping less fortunate people in mind I jumped at the chance to make a difference to some children, not really knowing what I was getting in to. Yuval then introduced me to Ron Raab of “Insulin For Life” who was doing a similar job and who gave me invaluable advice in what to expect.

Over the coming weeks individual people, football clubs and football organisations started to donate goods and drop them off to my house. It wasn’t long before the garage began to fill up and the car was banished to the drive way.

Then boxes came in from Visy for us to use in packing and with the help of two of my children, Jordana and Corey, the boxes began to fill and further take over the garage. In the end there were 39 boxes of donated goods with 1 very important box to follow.

Reagan had a room in my house that he slept in a couple of nights a week but that he also used to keep all, and I do mean all, of his football collections. So sometime after we had lost Reagan I had to go through his things and decide what to do with them.

The easiest way to decide was to ask him what he wanted me to do. It was a simple answer; “give it to the children of Tonga from me”. So box no. 40 was full of Reagan’s personal football belongings.

Then we had to choose a date for the goods to arrive in Tonga and of course for me to be there too in order to accept the gratitude from the kingdom. The date set was 8 February 2012. I had expected a simple ceremony of a handover but this ceremony began to grow and grow.

Yuval Rotem, Shemi Tzur. Tongan Prime Minister Lord Tu'ivakano, Thomas Roth and Kevin Milstein

I had been told by Yuval that the Crown Prince of Tonga, who usually resides in Canberra as the High Commissioner of Tonga, was going to honour me by being at the ceremony. When word got out that the Crown Prince was going to be there then more government ministers joined the invitation list all the way up to the Prime Minister of Tonga.

Added to that was the Australian High Commissioner to Tonga and the actual Israeli ambassador to Tonga who resides in New Zealand with of course the Israeli ambassador to Australia. The list of dignitaries was just growing and growing.

I arrived in Tonga on 6 February and was treated as a VIP from the moment that I arrived. I was shown around the kingdom by a government driver and wined and dined as well. It is not called the Friendly Islands (by Captain Cook) for nothing.

Come the main day and the pressure was growing. I had to make last minute changes to my speech and make sure that everything was set up right for the RMF display at the ceremony.

The ceremony was being held at the relatively new football academy built in Tonga with the help of funds from FIFA. When I went out there in the morning to get set up for the afternoon I saw that they had set up 2 marquees for the day, one for the main bulk of the guests and the other for the dignitaries including the Crown prince. I was told that my seat was in the dignitaries’ marquee next to the Crown Prince on his right. In other words the spotlight was going to be firmly on me, not the place that I like to be in.

Never the less I got on with the business of setting up a display of goods that were being donated, handed over a banner made for the occasion to be displayed and set up our own personal RMF banner in a prominent position.

The RMF banner is quite special to all of us. It has on it the last photo of Reagan taken in Australia before he passed away. So in a way I had Reagan looking on during the whole ceremony and supervising the handover of goods.

After I had gone back to my hotel to get dressed for the occasion I returned to the football academy grounds to find that it had been covered with red and white bunting (red and white are the national colours of Tonga) and that guests had begun to arrive. Before everyone was settled in both Israeli ambassadors and I were honoured with a special lei. We were told that the combination of flowers on our lei was only used for the most honoured people in Tonga. This was an indication of what was to follow.

After all the guests and dignitaries were seated the Crown Prince arrived to be seated in the most prominent seat in the house. Right next to me of course!

I won’t go through all the different speeches by ministers and ambassadors but I will sum it up by saying that I was overwhelmed by the gratitude from the people of Tonga. Some beautiful things were said about Reagan and if its true that the more you talk about the deceased the more elevated they become in heaven then on that day Reagan would have reached the pinnacle.

After the official handover of goods and the speeches were over I got to mingle with the dozens of children that were brought to the academy for the day. They had been sitting quietly and respectfully all the way through the speeches and were now released to go and play football.

It was the ultimate delight for me to see these happy young faces running around playing football on this bright and sunny day because of Reagan. As I had said in my speech “I know that the laughter of your children can be heard by my son.”

If I had been overwhelmed by that stage then what was to come absolutely floored me.

I was told by football officials that when the new football season starts up in Tonga they will be calling their first division league the “Reagan League”. What greater honour can my beautiful boy have?

I am extremely humbled by the gratitude of the people of Tonga and I hope that I and RMF can continue to have a strong bond with these lovely people.

Editor’s note: The ReaganMilstein Foundation honors the memory of Reagan Milstein, the youngest of five children born to Tamara and Kevin Milstein who live in Caulfield, Melbourne. He died in 2010 following a diving accident in Malaysia. He had been attending the 2010 FIFA World Cup with his father, Kevin who wrote this article.

Comments

One Response to “Israel scores goals in Tonga”
  1. Dean says:

    Congratulations Kevin and RMF. I played football with Reagan for a fair few seasons, the LB in front of the ‘keeper. He’s missed by the community every day and will not be forgotten. So very happy for you, will keep my eyes peeled for the “R-League” soon!

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