Traditional Fijian ‘100 nights’ celebration in memory of former Rochdale Hornets player Michael Ratu

Date published: 26 April 2022

A traditional Fijian ‘100 nights’ celebration in memory of former Rochdale Hornets player Michael Ratu, one of the original Fijian pioneers who signed for Hornets in the 1960s, is being held this weekend.

The 100 nights is a Fijian burial ritual, where family and friends mourn for 100 nights after a loved one’s burial.

To commemorate the occasion, a traditional lovo feast will be prepared, a Fijian method of cooking food using an underground oven to bring communities together. The lovo will consist of a whole roasted pig, wrapped in banana leaves, plus vegetables, all cooked on an underground fire before being served.

Mike, who passed away in December 2021, signed for Rochdale Hornets in 1965 after a spell serving in the British Army. He came to Rochdale and married Anne; they had three children, Michael Jnr, Nina and Emon, plus grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Mike was a strong running winger with all the usual Fijian flair when he played. He was an integral part of the Fijian community and was always entertaining people, making them smile and had some fabulous times at Rochdale Hornets in the 60s and early 70s.

The lovo and a traditional kava ceremony – the national drink of Fiji – will follow a local rugby match at Rakewood between two local teams competing for the “Mick Galvin/Philip Rockatuni “memorial trophies.

Kava is a traditional drink which is naturally calming. It is traditionally served as part of a ceremonial atmosphere, most commonly in welcoming guests into a village and on important occasions.

The game will be started by former Hornets chairman Councillor Peter Rush and Mayor Aasim Rashid, who will also present trophies at the end of the game.

Local residents are invited to the celebration, which will also include traditional Fijian dancing by Mike’s grandchildren (wearing skirts imported from the Pacific nation).

Money raised since Mike Snr’s death will go towards creating a communal building in the Fijian village of Raviravi, where he was from.

His son, Mike Jnr, said: “This is the first opportunity we’ve been able to host these memorial games and a big thank you to Dominic Kershaw and the players for committing to the fixture

“Rochdale Hornets has also dedicated a shirt to my dad, keeping the links between Fiji and Rochdale. There has always been a connection between Rochdalians/Littleborough RUFC as many generations have played there.

“Thank you to Littleborough RUFC for hosting the event, and a local farmer for the donation of the pig. We’d love as many people as possible to join us in this celebration.”

Kick-off will take place at 3pm on Saturday 30 April, followed by food at 4.45pm, dancing at 5.30pm, and the kava ceremony at 6pm. A disco will be held until 10pm, with the bar open all day.

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