Football, faith and family for the Australian Pacific Island diaspora: the role of the vā (‘space between’) in rugby league

Publication Name

Sport in Society


Football (rugby league) shares performative acts of service with faith and family that are significant to diasporic Pasifika personhood in Australia. Drawing on two years’ ethnographic fieldwork, I argue that participating in rugby league, whether spectating or playing, shares performative acts of service in similar ways to practices within faith and family, and that this can help us understand the high levels of Pasifika involvement in rugby league far better than any narrative of ‘natural’ Pasifika masculinity or physicality. I draw on the Pasifika concept of vā (‘the space between’) to help make sense of the power and connections between ‘the three f’s’. The vā is a complex concept of relationality and service, and can be a helpful tool in understanding the importance of rugby league to Australian-based Pasifika people, particularly the sport’s inextricable connections to family, and the changing nature of faith for the rapidly growing second-generation Pasifika diaspora.

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