Thursday, 14 February 2019

FOOTBALL HISTORY: "A Tribute to Rudi Gutendorf, Fiji National Team Coach", by Henry Dyer, 25 March 2015.

Nadi and Fiji stars Savenaca Waqa (GK) (left) and Henry Dyer, Namotomoto Village Extension, Nadi Town, 27 August 2015.
A Tribute to Rudi Gutendorf, Fiji National Team Coach
All the coaches who came before Rudi only lifted the morale of the team. However, Rudi implemented a European pattern of soccer that was appreciated and absorbed by the soccer people of Fiji. In that European pattern of soccer you had to be extra fit and you had to have the guts to take the hard knocks and to give them too. He would really talk in a harsh and direct and sometimes offensive way using terms that would offend you. However, then all of a sudden, he would come to you as a father and as a parent and give you that kind of loving talk which would lift your morale and bring you back to where you should be after you had been shattered by his scolding. He would not tell you directly that he was talking to you in a fatherly way. You would feel remorse as if you had been in the wrong and you had to make up. You felt that you had to prove yourself and show him as if he was a parent or a father. This is how it was when you were in the squad or in the first XI. It is a pity that, after he had left, Fiji football slowly lost touch with that style of play and with that high standard of coaching. It was fortunate that the players of that era carried the rhythm of that play for some time – until they retired. At the time of Fiji’s 1-0 win over Australia in 1988 there was still some Rudi influence as Billy Singh had been under him.
Rudi Gutendorf.
Like every human being you have a hidden secret of what is close to your heart. Before Rudi selected his teams, I sensed that he was talking mostly to the boys who were on his list of chosen players. I caught on to this. He would only tend to scold those players whom he really wanted to teach. These were the players he really wanted for the team. He mentioned that if he is talking to someone over and over again do not think that he is angry with him. He has something in mind for him. He has the goal of motivating that person to become a better player. He had the skills at an old age to have kicks at training and this really inspired us further to better our kicks.
At the Natabua High School grounds we had just been starting to learn this European soccer pattern. The two left and right-backs would run down the flanks and become the hidden wingers. This was designed to catch the defence off-guard as these two would become the extras in attack. At Natabua grounds, Rudi Gutendorf was still trying to get us to understand the tactics of the new pattern of European soccer that he was introducing to us. It was a new thing for both him as teacher and us as students. When he gave the command to the boys to cross from the corner of both flanks into goal, and for the midfield and the strikers to strike at a volley-kick (the one-touch of the corner kick into the goal), this was really his dream which he wished to implement. He wanted to see a classy finish which is really what the Fiji soccer of today lacks. You could see this at the 2013 IDC tournament at Churchill Park where Lautoka scored zero goals for the whole tournament despite having numerous chances in opposition territory.
Henry Dyer helps an English PhD student.
In this training at Natabua Grounds we started to understand what the European soccer pattern was all about. We started to gain momentum and confidence. At this training it came to my turn to receive the cross. I would say that I am not boasting but this is the truth. I scored one of the best goals of that training that day. Rudi yelled out in delight because what he wanted to implement had come to pass.
The senior players in that 1983 training squad (to go to the South Pacific Games in Samoa at which we won the silver) gave me some friendly remarks such as “your name is in the book now and you have a tick”. I really felt great for myself. The ball struck the bottom of the crossbar from my kick and Rudi shouted out: “This is the goal which I was talking about.” That goal instilled me with confidence and it gave meaning and direction to the boys. When I kicked the ball I was around six metres out from goal and I was directly in front of it. I remember my friend Mohd. Salim from Rewa and my club-mate Emasi “Bacardi” Koroi (from Airport Soccer Club) were joking with me that now I had been able to satisfy Rudi. I would say that Rudi’s coaching was a challenge to us to either make it or drop out at the early stages. You had to be fit, you had to perform; you had to have a positive attitude; and you had to be able to take the hard knocks and the scolding. The other players were also doing their bit to become a part of the team.
Henry Dyer, Semi Tabaiwalu (Ba / Fiji), Kieran James.
Rudi thought that Savenaca Waqa (goalkeeper) was an excellent player. He did not make any attempts to take the players overseas to play as Fiji Football probably did not want him to take any of the players away. He mentioned to me that he wanted to take me to a club in Europe but nothing happened. This is why today I am living in Nakavu Village, Nadi instead of perhaps Hamburg, Budapest or Prague! Fiji Football should do more liaisons with Oceania and European football to give our younger players at club level some exposure. Out of this squad Tony Kabakoro, Stan Morrel, Kelemedi “Cheetah” Vosuga, and Abdul Manaan all made it overseas to play abroad (in either Australia or New Zealand). Furthermore, Ivor Evans went over to Canada to play for Vancouver and eventually he migrated. He was one of the lucky ones. He had the connections and the network from Ba. He was a part-European. He went over there and he fitted into a team where most of the guys there were from Fiji or Ba. He was absolutely at home away from home. Very few Fiji players played in Europe during this era. I can say that Rudi’s time in Fiji as a coach was bound up with the futures of most of the players of that era.

[By the former Fiji national team player Henry Dyer, as told to Dr Kieran James of University of Fiji in Nadi, 25 March 2015.]
Kieran James and Inia Bola aka "Golden Header" @ Ba Town, 17 June 2015.
Fiji teammates / domestic soccer rivals Henry Dyer  (Nadi / Lautoka) (left) and Meli Vuilabasa (Ba), Ba Town, 2 June 2015.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

FOOTBALL HISTORY: "My Debt to Johnny Warren's Coaching Book", by Henry Dyer (Nadi / Fiji rep), 2015.

I think it was my grandfather who gave me the Johnny Warren soccer coaching book. He saw that I had the talent to do well in soccer. This was during my early days at high-school. I remember I had the book in my drawer. I would only look at it as a gift from my grandpa. It just happened that, when I made the Nadi team, I heard more about Johnny Warren from Bobby Tikaram [Nadi vice-president]. I heard about his coaching skills and what he had done for Nadi Soccer back then. He lifted Nadi to a different level in soccer. He was an invited technical adviser. Bobby invited him to come over here. This would have been in the mid- to late-1970s. So, all along, I had this Johnny Warren book lying down in my drawer. Bobby told me that Johnny Warren had done a tremendous job in lifting the performance of the Nadi team then. For myself, as a club member of Airport Soccer Club, I took this information very seriously and I went back to the book. I thought if Bobby is the man who brought Johnny to Nadi Soccer than I am talking to the coach of Pele. I was thinking in my imagination that it is like talking to Pele’s coach. I thought I must go back to the book and see what is in there.
Savenaca Waqa (left) and Henry Dyer, 27 August 2015.
I really started learning the basics of controlling the ball; doing the wall-pass; cushioning it on your in-step to get the feel of the ball; and doing the corner kicks. I would practice in the backyard. I practiced kicking the ball through two narrow posts. I tried to master all types of kicks. I eventually happened to improve my skills in all these areas so that I could use them in a match. I would say that Johnny Warren’s book was like a mentor to me in all aspects of the game and it enabled me to improve my techniques in many areas. In my early days playing for Nadi, I would get a tap on my back and this was my Phys Ed teacher from Ba Provincial Secondary School (Master Gajend Prasad). He would comment and say: “It is amazing and I am very happy to see that you are doing great as a former student of Ba Provincial.”
As the years went by I started to think that my success was more due to the book than due to my own talents. I managed to pick up the various skills from the book quickly. At first I had thought that Bobby had given me book but it was my grandfather.  I remember now that I had the book in my drawer during my school days at high-school (Ba Provincial Secondary School). However, the funny thing is that while at school I did not believe that I would become one of the known soccer players of Fiji. I did not share the book with anyone. It was like a gift. I did not show it to anyone. I would go over the diagrams about free-kicks, etc., and then I would just put it back in the drawer. I did not know that it was inspiring me all along. I give respect to my grandfather because it was he who indirectly inspired me to put a bit more effort into training and to make use of the book. While gelling with the matured players of the Nadi team then I did not realize or take into consideration that these stars had been coached by Johnny Warren himself. The Fijian boys do not talk about these kinds of things. They are very quiet unless you question them.
Nadi legends H. Dyer / Vivekanand ‘Boy’ Reddy.
It was only after Bobby had been talking to us (Kieran James and me) about this book that I started to remember the Johnny Warren book. I had been thinking that I had made myself a star. However, part of it was because of Johnny Warren’s book and also due to my team-mates in the Nadi team. I must give full recognition to all of the Nadi boys from that era because we had a very strong team. Anyone who was selected in the team was treated like a family member and he was given space to move around in. It was made so easy for him to spark. Back then the core of the Nadi team or the regular players stood out in front of the crowd and any new player who tried out or who came on as substitute was very fortunate to have that opportunity. It gave the new guy the chance to fully develop and excel. I always give respect to the Nadi squad of those years, Johnny Warren himself, and the administration that we were able to play in that sort of positive environment. The good thing about that time was that you would have someone on the field telling you what to do and whether to go on the left or the right or the front or the middle or the back. That gave us the confidence to go out and perform better. I hope that this can be repeated in the current environment in Nadi and in Fiji.
Some specific skills I learned from the book were: cushioning the ball and getting the feel of the ball, on your feet and on your head. I also learnt how to get the ball away to my team-mates especially when I was in a duel in the air. Rudi Gutendorf said that if we can win in the air then we can control the ground action as well. Both of these two coaches place the same emphasis upon combating your opponent in the air first and foremost. They believe that whoever controls the aerial space also controls the ground because psychologically you have beaten him first in the warfare in the air. When he is on the ground he is already down. It takes him time to recover. By this time you are running circles around him. So if the eleven players are beaten in the aerial battles you have achieved half of the task of winning the game. Even if you beat six or seven of them in the air (the key players) then that is it and you have controlled the game.
I believe that soccer is a game where you have to get aggressive and defensive and have got to be aggressive above all. In modern-day soccer (if you watch the English soccer or soccer from around the world, for example) you will see that they use all these tactics and they are very aggressive and defensive. So I would say that to master the skills to play the game better you have to put a lot of time into training. You have to do tactical skills, tactical play, and stamina training (meaning endurance tests). I would say that any top player would have gone through these experiences. To become a better player you have to put in your individual effort. I know of some of my club-mates (even my primary-school mates and high-school mates) who were very talented, classy, and skilful and they would have become better players than me but I see that they did not have a personal goal to push themselves into strenuous training. Otherwise they could have been somebody else today. I would say that it takes hard work and effort to get to the top in anything in life. I only wish that I could have personally met Johnny Warren during my soccer career or after. The same applies to Rudi Gutendorf. He is a very old man (as at 6 February 2019). I wish I had been able to meet him again after the conclusion of my soccer career. I read that Rudi Gutendorf holds the record of coaching the most national teams.
[By the former Fiji national team player Henry Dyer, as told to Dr Kieran James of University of Fiji in Nadi, 25 March 2015.]

Thursday, 24 January 2019

FOOTBALL HISTORY: "Star of all Stars: The Legend Ravuama Madigi", 24 January 2019.

STAR OF ALL STARS - THE LEGEND RAVUAMA MADIGI
HE was the man with the golden boot. His record of three winning goals in three Inter-district Championship finals remains unmatched.

Ravuama Madigi was a match winner. He was the man for the big moments.
His class and ability as a marksman was obvious from a very young age. Having represented Fiji in youth football, Madigi's first taste of top flight victory came in 1986.
It wasn't a rosy start though. Madigi was substituted midway through Ba's opening game as they lost 0-1 to a Charles Work goal for Nadroga.
That was on the opening day of the IDC at Ratu Cakobau Park. The Men in Black, under the guidance of former captain Vimlesh Singh recovered, and squeezed their way into the semi-final.
Kieran James with Inia Bola, Madigi's brother, June 2015.
There Ba's young and upcoming talent faced Lautoka's experienced men, the likes of Sam Work and company. Ivor Evans, 20 at that time, had moved from Labasa to Ba in 1985 together with Epeli Rokoqica. Evans, who would go on to pursue his footballing dream in Canada, scored the winner as the Blues were stunned 1-0.
This set up a rematch with Nadroga in the final. With the likes of ginger-haired Ilikimi Tulalevu, Work, Abraham Watkins, Radike Nawalu and veteran goalkeeper, the late Luke Waqa, Nadroga was tipped to repeat the feat of day one.
But Madigi had other ideas. He broke through and went around Waqa before the latter brought him down and gave away a penalty.
Madigi nailed the spot-kick and Ba, having played the promotion/relegation against Tailevu Naitasiri the year before, were back where they belonged, at the summit of Fiji football. "That was the only time I played with my brother (former strike sensation, Inia Bola)," said Madigi about the 8-1 victory over Tailevu Naitasiri.
The '86 IDC win was a special moment for stopper Hurricane Naivivi. Having lived in the shadows of the great Bale Raniga, Naivivi got to play the semi-final and final after Raniga got injured in the final pool game.
"Naivivi stood in the bus all the way from Nausori to Ba drinking beer. He was overjoyed," Madigi recalls. "This was his moment, one that he was so looking forward to having been on the bench for so many years."
In 1991, the Madigi magic came to the fore again. The venue was Prince Charles Park and Nadroga the opposition in the IDC final.
Nailaga villager Taito Bula chipped the ball into Madigi's path and he let fly with a volley.
In goal for Nadroga was New Zealand-based Vinod Kumar, who went on to represent Fiji. Kumar could only parry the effort back to Madigi.
Madigi reacted quickly. Seeing Kumar off his line, he nodded the ball over him into an empty goal. Ba won 1-0 to clinch the Lloyd Farebrother Trophy.
Madigi was one of the most feared marksmen, known not only for his finishing prowess but also his lethal strikes. He was equally good with both feet and the power, velocity and pace of his thunderous drives got the better of some top goalkeepers.
In 1986, while warming up for the Fiji-Minsk Dynamo (a Russian side) match at the National Stadium, a Madigi thunderbolt struck Nadi stopper Savenaca Waqa on the head and he was stretchered off with former Navua rep and Fijian double international Iliesa Bolabiu getting the call into the run-on team.
"He said if it wasn't for me he would have played that game." That was when Nasinu's Tagi Vonolagi got his first break into the Fiji team as a reserve goalkeeper.
Ba fans were left stunned when Madigi switched districts to Rewa and lined up against his former side in the 2001 IDC final.
It was unexpected. Why did he leave?
He was 37 but for Rewa, old was gold. Madigi showed even at that age that he was born to relish in big matches. He struck with a free-kick. A stupendous strike from the edge of the box that gave Ba stopper Laisenia Tuba no chance. Rewa won 1-0. So how did Madigi feel about burying his home team at the Laucala turf?
"I saw things as a sportsman. I did it for the team I represented and I was proud about the fact that it took a Ba player to give Rewa an IDC win after 29 years," Madigi said.
Leaving Ba was not easy though.
"We had built a very strong bond both as players and with the fans," he said
"When we drank beer, we challenged each other in that. When we played soccer, we challenged each other likewise. We were more than just a team, we were a family.
"Then there were the fans. They were very close to us. From the fishermen to the farmers, they'd do everything to keep us happy."
Madigi's goal scoring exploits were not only restricted to district level. In 1988, he scored a memorable goal that remains etched in the hearts of all Fiji soccer lovers. His 67th minute strike for Fiji shocked the Australian Socceroos 1-0 at Prince Charles Park.
"I just loved scoring goals. That feeling of the ball hitting the net and me running around to celebrate with teammates and fans was unique."
Madigi himself was unique. Perhaps the finest hit-man in the history of Fiji football, a local legend, an icon.
[Source: Unknown; found on Facebook.]

Monday, 12 November 2018

FOOTBALL HISTORY: "Samis' love of soccer" (Ba Soccer Association), 12 November 2018.

Samis' Love of Soccer 
(Picture: Tony Kabakoro, Henry Dyer, Julie Sami, 2015 IDC in Ba).

HE comes from a soccer crazy town and family. His dad played for Fiji, so did he and two of his brothers. 
Vimal Sami was part of that historic 1-0 win over the Socceroos at Prince Charles Park, Nadi.
He represented Ba from 1984 to 1999 and won all the silverware on offer in local football.
He retired in 1999 after scoring the winning goal in Ba's 1-0 Battle of the Giants triumph over Tavua at Churchill Park in Lautoka.
Now 47, Sami still can't stay away from the game. Yesterday, he was at the Courts Inter District Championship to back his Men in Black.
He was the youngest of five brothers, four of whom played for Ba.
The eldest Narend, Kamal and Julie Sami donned the black jersey.
"Narend started in Rewa and then came to Ba to play striker," Vimal said.
"We all played for Ba except for Sunil."
Julie and Vimal represented the country in the senior side while Kamal played for Fiji youth alongside Abdul Manaan.
Their father Meera Sami was a top Fiji and Ba rep.
Soccer runs in the family blood.
Vimal's son Narendra Rao is playing for Ba Sangam College at this tournament and has already featured for the Ba senior side too.
Julie's son Dennis Rao played for Tavua and Shamil Rao, who featured for Ba and Lautoka, is Sunil's son.
Vimal played with a lot of top players but picks his former team-mate Akuila Rova as the finest player of his time.
"He was a workaholic, a ball-hunter," Vimal recalls.
"He chased down every ball that came his way, even if the pass was going astray.
"Players hardly do that these days. They want the ball to be played straight to them.
"Players need to do overtime like Rova and most of us during our time. By doing that you lift the morale and spirit of the team."
Sami featured in that Fiji team of '88 alongside big names like Nasoni Buli, Ivor Evans, Ravuama Madigi, Lote Delai and others.
He was a champion footballer and looks like his son Narend, who is named after his uncle, will follow suit. Nothing surprising about Ba people; it's all about football for them (Source: Ba Soccer Association Facebook page, 2012).











Friday, 7 September 2018

ARTICLE: "Meet Malcolm - the biggest Newcastle United fan in Fiji" (Fiji 3, Newcastle United 0).

Nadi and Fiji stars Savenaca Waqa (left) and Henry Dyer in Namotomoto Village Extension, Nadi, 27 August 2015. This day in 1985 Savenaca kept a clean sheet against first-division opposition from England.
ARTICLE (by Mike Kelly, 27 April 2014): It’s a headline that has sadly become common place of late for Newcastle United . . . “3-0. Heroes humble English stars”.

The paper was the Fiji Sun, the date of the match was May 25, 1985, and the heroes who humiliated the Toon were the Fiji national team.

It was especially painful for Malcolm Harrison, one of Fiji’s biggest - and only - Toon fans.

The ex-pat Geordie had waited years for his home team to fly across the globe to his new home on the Pacific island.

But it was disappointment then, and now, almost 30 years later, the 74-year-old faces more heartache at the hands of his beloved team.

He’s travelled almost 10,000 miles back to the North, but he won’t be going any further than St James Park’s gates . . . because he’s so disappointed with their recent form.

“If they can’t be bothered, why should I?” he said.

Malcolm’s journey to Fiji began in 1970 when he worked for the North Shields Co-op and was sent to the company’s college in Loughborough.

There he met a number of Fijian students who he got on so well with they persuaded him to visit their country.

Being a bit adventurous he did. He applied to work there through the Voluntary Service Overseas scheme but at first hated it.

Then he met Olita, the woman who was soon to become his wife.

The couple moved briefly back to the UK in 1972 but now, with Olita, he found he missed Fiji and returned in 1974. The couple have lived there ever since.

They have three daughters, Leba, 38, Nicola, 36, and 34-year-old Olena. A successful career as a businessman followed.

During that time he continued his love of Newcastle United. He drives around his adopted home with his own special number plate, 2NRME.

And although he knows a handful of other ex-pat Geordies in the country - Ron Walsh, 95, and Nick Barnes, in his 40s from Northumberland - Malcolm is surely the Toon’s biggest fan on the other side of the globe.

Malcolm also turned out on the pitch himself in years gone by with an ex-pat football team called ‘The Hasbeens’.

Which takes us back to 1985 and Newcastle United, then managed by Jackie Charlton, arriving in Fiji for their match.

“The game was played in the afternoon and the temperature was about 34C,” recalled Malcolm, who is originally from Whitley Bay in North Tyneside.

“Newcastle had just flown in from New Zealand and, to put it bluntly, looked knackered.”

The team included stars such as Peter Beardsley, Glen Roeder, Gary Megson, George Reilly, John Anderson, Kenny Wharton, Dave McCreery and a teenage Paul Gascoigne.

“The crowd went mad when Fiji won,” said Malcolm.

But he revealed some of the Toon players, a bit aggrieved by the result, did themselves no favours by snubbing the fans.

“I have to say Willie McFaul was very good, as was Neil McDonald and Gary Megson,” he said.

However two days later a return match was played in the capital of Fiji, Suva.

“It kicked off at 7.30pm this time,” said Malcolm. “It was cooler and there had been a bit of rain.”

A long distance John Anderson strike and a Paul Gascoigne solo goal secured a 2-0 win.

To this day, Malcolm has kept the cuttings from the match.

But the last league game he saw at Newcastle was on Boxing Day 1991 when the Toon managed by Ossie Ardiles lost 1-0.

The last time he saw them play in the flesh was the 1999 FA Cup final against Manchester United.

“I told Olita I had to go as I’d never been to Wembley and ended up paying £500 for a ticket.”

The Toon were beaten 2-0 by the Red Devils. Worse still for Malcolm, the only ticket he could get was in the Manchester end.

“I had to stand up when they scored but I didn’t cheer,” he said.

Malcolm is excited by the news Newcastle might be doing a pre-season tour in New Zealand. The last time they did that was 1985 - when they ended up in Fiji.

Surely, this time, they would win all the games if they played there? “You’d like to think so,” said Malcolm, not too convincingly.

Prince Charles Park in Nadi for Fiji FACT 2015.
Nadi and Fiji stars Seremaia Tale, Henry Dyer, Savenaca Waqa.
Ba and Fiji stars Henry Dyer (left) and Semi Tabaiwalu.
Ba and Fiji stars Henry Dyer (left) and Meli Vuilabasa, 2 June 2015.
Henry Dyer (left) supervises kava preparation at Namotomoto Village, Nadi.
Henry Dyer (left) and University of Fiji professor / soccer researcher Kieran James @ Ba Central Club.
Nadi and Fiji champions Henry Dyer (left) and Inosi Tora at Namotomoto Village, Nadi.
One last Fiji Gold long-neck for Henry Dyer at Renee's Hostel, Naviti Street, Lautoka, after Nadi's 2-1 defeat of Ba at Govind Park on Friday, 6 March 2015.
Nadi legends Henry Dyer (left) and Boy Reddy. Boy Reddy played in Nadi's first IDC win in 1969.
SUGAR CITY BLUES: Former Lautoka Blues and Fiji teammates Henry Dyer (left) and Wally Mausio at the Lautoka Club around 2014-15.