Tuesday 22 February 2022

NEW INTERVIEW: Our interview with Semi Tabaiwalu, Part II (first time published), 20 June 2015, Ba Central Club

Interview with Semi Tabaiwalu (Ba and Fiji Legend) Part II

Saturday, 20 June 2015 @ Ba River and Ba Central Club. This is the section from Ba Central Club.

By: Henry Dyer (Nadi Legends Club) and Kieran James (University of Fiji)

Kieran James: It seems so fluky, the 1982 IDC penalty shootout that neither side could win; it was like that was a destiny.

Semi Tabaiwalu: In the 1978 IDC in Lautoka, we played the first game against Labasa, we lost 4-0.

Henry Dyer: And then?

Semi: We came back towards Ba to the camp. We reached camp and Jone Nakosia (our sweeper) said something was given to him by C.P. Patel (the owner of C.P. Patel). Then Jone Nakosia said: “what I have done is wrong, I did not inform the boys that something was given to me which was to do with black magic.” We cleared that out in the Fijian traditional cultural protocol. C.P. Patel wanted us to win and the black magic did not work. We won all the other games heading up to the final. Then we met Labasa again in the final. There was a penalty shootout.

Henry: I remember that game, man. I watched that game. Everyone was cheering for Labasa. I was schooling at Ba Provincial Secondary School. I was 16-years-old.

Semi: I was the deciding penalty kicker. We had our referee from England, Peter Eaton, but he was a linesman that day. Ba team always wanted him to referee their game. He came over to me and said: “If you kick this, you will take the trophy back to Ba.” He was from England, but his favourite team was Ba. I kicked it and I scored it, we won that game.

Henry: So Peter Eaton encouraged Semi to make Ba win with confidence.

Semi: We won that tournament, 1978. That was the best team that Ba had in that era. In 1979 in Nausori we won against Nadi 2-1 in the final. [Note: Semi said 1-0 but it was 2-1.]

Henry: Did you know about the Veterans’ Dinner organized by Fiji Football? [Note: this was held in October 2014 in Nadi.]

Semi: No, I did not know about it, I was not given a ticket. After it happened, someone mentioned that something was happening in Nadi around the veterans’ tournament.

Henry: He found out after the tournament had happened. Joe Basudra and Lote [Delai] (they had been at the function after match) were there, so why were you not there? They were younger players, after your time.

Semi: I was not informed until I learnt from somebody later on.

Henry: Inia Bola mentioned that he got an invitation. Do you think it is fair that he goes without your knowledge?

Semi: For me, it’s OK. I have nothing to lose. Inia and me we are the same. But the question is why nobody ever told me.

Semi: My son played for Ba, Fiji, and SPG gold medal [South Pacific Games]. He says: “Dad, I beat you.” I always say: “No, you only beat me when I tell you.” So his mama was telling me “we beat you” and I always tell my wife “no, not yet”.

Henry: This means that Semi is talking with experience and wisdom.

Semi: When I was in charge of Ba team for four years, it was all about discipline. If they don’t listen to me, I kick them out.

Henry: Don’t say “kicked them out”, say “drop them” [laughs].

Semi: Even the classic players I threw out such as Junior Buka Lidit, Peni Finau. There are so many others.

Henry: It was his strategy to keep disciplining the team.

Henry: The Indians, they have the power, they manipulate, they have the monopoly. Regardless of your experience or ability, when they say “time”, then your time ends there. Because they control the game. [Note: This is a comment about Semi Tabaiwulu being pushed out of his Ba manager job by Ba officials despite his strong track record.]

Semi: When we won the IDC six years in a row, we used to say to each other “do it for the supporters”. Ten or more buses went down from Ba to Suva for the finals. We used to always get free beers here at the Central Club and even discounts at shops and free bus fares within Ba.  So we were all repaid in other ways. Now the players don’t mix with the public. They buy their beers and go and hide them somewhere.

Semi: You cannot be one leg only. Our coach, S.M. Singh, was very much against one-leg players. If you were one leg, you were out of the squad.

Semi: After the SPG, Mike Everett said he wanted to take [Joe] Tubuna to England and make money. We lost 1-0 against Tahiti.

KJ: The same score as in 1983.

Henry: Yes. From what he saw, Mike Everett thought Joe had the skills to make it big time in England. Mike just mentioned this, but nothing was done about it, either by Mike or Fiji FA. It shows that the talent of the Fiji soccer boys remained …

KJ: Unmined. [Note: This was probably a reference to Vatukoula gold mine just being down the road from our then location at Ba Central Club.]

Henry: Right, … unmined.

Semi: Fiji Soccer should have encouraged the talented players to go overseas, just as Fiji Rugby is doing today.

Henry: Yes, yes. James, this is the same thing as I mentioned to you earlier. It is a pity that we have failed to give opportunity to a lot of talent, which would have been a big advantage to Fiji FA today and to the districts. It is a pity that soccer is not heading in the right direction.

Semi: The game here is now characterized by individual play. If I have the ball inside the box now, I just want to score. But, in our day, we would put the ball out. They want their name up in lights.

Semi: Rudi said when I retired, I could become a good coach. That is what he told me, Rudi Gutendorf.

Henry: Of course, because Rudi had heard of his experience. But, when you come to think about it, Fiji Football still didn’t adhere to this.

Semi: They will never. Two months after SPG, Fiji Football gave you a shield for Best [note: I can’t read the next word here from my notes] Player in SPG. I got a shock. This was before Rudi left. He told me: “you are going to become a good coach.” Before, in the national team, we would share shoes or trousers to anyone who had the need, even the underwear, we cared for each other.

[Note: We stayed for a long time drinking in Ba Central Club that Saturday evening, after the interview began in the afternoon at Ba river, but my notes end here.]

Saturday 4 September 2021

NEW INTERVIEW: Vivekanand "Boy" Reddy interview, by Kieran James and Henry Dyer, 2015.

My interview with Vivekanand “Boy” Reddy, Dratabu Village, Nadi, 2015.

Kieran James: Please tell us about the beginning, how you began your soccer career?

Boy Reddy: I started playing when I was 16. I won the first IDC for Nadi, 1969, after 42 years. I went to Namotomoto Village. I was last-man-down for Nadi (full-back). Those who care for others will be looked after by somebody. In those days, I used to walk/run from here to the town and then to Newtown (Wailoaloa beach, Martintar, Nadi). That time my father was dead. My Mom stopped me from playing, she said “you have to run the farm”. I went to Namotomoto and stayed there for three years. I started eating Fijian food and speaking Fijian. I love that way of life - there is more Fijian in me, only a little bit Indian. When they drink, they drink a lot. When they play, they play a lot. In the village, they called me a Fijian guy [Henry Dyer laughs.]

I’m 72 now (born 1944) - you know why I didn’t migrate? Because I miss my friends here. We plant Fijian food. You can see the tapioca here. I enjoyed my life playing sports. I love to meet people who love sport and the district. I only ever played for Nadi, not for any other district such as Lautoka.

Henry Dyer: Who is still alive from your Nadi team, and who has passed away?

Boy Reddy: The goalkeeper is dead. We were twin full-backs, we are still alive. Here is the team: Anare Sabati (died), Rasul (died), Aiyub Kutti (died), Mani Naicker (died), Habib (died), Joe Lutumailagi, Krishna Reddy, Kollappa (migrated to Canada), Dawai (still alive), from Namotomoto, Yunus (migrated somewhere, I don’t know where, he was a link player).

KJ: Please tell us more about the 1969 IDC.

Boy Reddy: We won the first IDC, 1969, in Labasa. We beat Rewa 3-0, then Ba 1-0, and then Suva 1-0, all without penalty kicks. In the final we beat Suva.

Henry Dyer: Score?

Boy Reddy: 1-0. Mani Naicker was the captain, Joe and I were the vice-captains, we always had this argument [about who was vice-captain]. Joe came here and had his birthday last month, 67th. Inosi was here, Save and Taga.

Henry Dyer: Fuck this gang, they never tell me!

Boy Reddy: Ex-Tanoa, at club level.

Rajesh (nephew of Boy Reddy): I used to admire this Henry Dyer. He was a midfielder.

Sarawan (son): He has to go back at 2pm to Sydney.[Author note: Five years have passed since the interview. Sarawan was referring to another family member present, not Boy or Henry.]

Rajesh: I used to watch Henry's game.

Boy Reddy: He was a terrible player [joking]. He knew his position. No-one had to tell him.

Rajesh: We were born in Ba, but we grew up in Nadi. So, because of family heritage, I always support Nadi.

Henry Dyer: How many districts then competed in the IDC?

Boy Reddy: We used to play in one level. [Author’s note: I think this means that there was no group-stage. The second-division IDC began in 1968, so he doesn’t mean that didn’t exist.]

Henry Dyer: All the teams were in one level. We played knockout in four or five days. If you got knocked out, you go and drink in the bush. In those days, when we played IDC in Nadi, no-one stayed home. Every child and his father was at the ground that time. The 1971 IDC was in Nadi. There was a big crowd, a bumper crowd.

KJ: What years did you play?

Boy Reddy: From 1966-73 as regular Nadi rep. Henry must be 64 now?

KJ: No, he is much younger.

Rajesh: I never saw my uncle play. I was born 1968.

Boy Reddy: He must have been a baby. In those days, I was in hospital for three months with having torn muscle. One man [official] from the team visited me once in that whole time. He never even brought biscuits! I was so sad. I have no time for such officials. There should be money for injured players. This is why I stopped my son from playing. He was at USP and wanted to play for Nasinu. I told him and said “no, it is not your district”.

Boy Reddy: We used to stand in front of the pub and we would be chased away.

KJ: We are banned from Nadi Club.

Boy Reddy: Navneedna never banned me. My friend here, Henry Dyer, man, people are afraid of him, I don’t know why. He is my friend. He is regarded as a dangerous man. They are frightened of this man. James, [you] came from overseas and looked after us.

Henry Dyer: When you were playing, who were the hardest team to play against?

Boy Reddy: Lautoka - they played very organized soccer. They won by five or six goals against teams. They had a lot of nice blokes. They had a class of soccer. Lautoka had players like Augustine Thoman, Vilifafi Lee, Onnie Wong, Hakim Dean, Chandar Bahu Singh, M.S. Chetty,  Mun Reddy, and Arjun Gopal. Most of these players played for Fiji, so Lautoka was a very good team, as was Ba.

KJ: Did you play for Fiji?

Boy Reddy: I played for west part of Fiji. I played against Tottenham Hotspur. We played against a German team too, but I’m not sure who they were. In those days, when we played, we were like a family. We paid all our own expenses except food. We had no money but we were happy.

KJ: Did you get paid money at all?

Boy Reddy: No, nothing, nil. We played for the pride. My statement will be very dangerous for the old officials. It’s good to speak the truth, yes?

KJ: What do you think of Fiji soccer now?

Boy Reddy: It needs coaching from the primary-schools, from the ages of four or five. There is no good in spending money on the older players like we do now. I saw the games on TV [Oceania Champions’ League]. We didn’t have the technical skill nor the accuracy in finishing. They lack a lot of skills and understanding. They do not make game plans. Our country needs a few good coaches to train the young kids. That is my final comment. I still love soccer, but when I see our standard of soccer, it makes me feel very embarrassed. We need some new coaches, not just one or two. Every district needs a new professional coach.

KJ: I saw the teams from Vanuatu and New Caledonia play.

Boy Reddy: They are better than us. How can we develop soccer in Fiji? That is the big question mark.

Henry Dyer: Augustine Thoman, your comment?

Boy Reddy: He never loses possession, he had the accuracy. If he heads or kicks it, it goes into the net. He could kick six or seven goals a game. Lautoka players had the ball control.

KJ: Why has Lautoka gone down recently, compared to those times?

Boy Reddy: Players started roaming here and there and going for money. No-one is playing for district pride now. No-one gives one hundred percent now. All of a sudden something happened [to Lautoka] and it is a mystery to me.

KJ: One thing that happened is that Ba went up.

Boy Reddy: Sashi Mahendra Singh lived for some time in Germany.

Henry Dyer: When he came back he brought German passing to the game. And they had the money.

Boy Reddy: Ba is not a rich town, but Ba is very dedicated and gives one hundred percent and they listen to the coach. Ba is one of the best teams now in Fiji. When I talk I finish my story. If you come back again, I might tell lies [smiles]. Today, I’m very sincere. I’m happy you come and meet me in my compound. It’s a blessing to you, mate, that you come and lift sports up.

Henry Dyer: How many acres you got here?

Boy Reddy: I clear the land. I don’t want to plant too much now. I can talk. There are plenty of acres, but I can only find two or three. [Author’s note: The meaning is unclear here. It could relate to issues about who can plant what where  in the village.]

Henry Dyer: He can do whatever he wants.

Boy Reddy: No, don’t write that. I get on well with the people from my village.

KJ: Tell us about your life in Namotomoto.

Boy Reddy: I still miss that old place. There was an old lady, Tai Eva, Joe Lutumailagi’s mother. I called her my Aunty, she was very caring towards me. May her soul rest in peace. She was a nice lady, just like my mother. I lived in Namotomoto for three years. I ate everything.

Henry Dyer: He ate beef, he ate anything and everything.

Boy Reddy: But not shit and all. We dived for river mussels. When I played, I used to play and mostly live with the Fijian boys. Some people did not used to like me because I stayed with them. Please don’t write too much or these people will not come to my funeral. These boys did it to me, but I forgive them. Don’t say something to hurt people in my dying day.

Boy Reddy: I was a dirty fellow too like him [Henry Dyer]. But write something clean for me; you are a good writer. You can say these two guys [Boy and Henry] played rugged soccer, never say die. Whether 6-0 or 7-0, we will keep on playing until the last minute. We have been through very difficult times, me and this guy Henry. After games, I walked back here in the dark. Kini Tubi, Save [Savenaca Waqa] and Marika would all come here at night to drink. After we finished, these boys picked up very well and played great soccer for Nadi for 9-10 years at the top level. Rusiate, Pacandi, Kaitani - it was a very good team, I was so proud of them. After that, I did not really keep an active interest. People should be spending money in the primary schools [to coach youngsters in soccer]. You can’t teach an old man how to play.

Boy Reddy: I used to get on well with rugby greats from Nadi and Fiji - Voe Savau and Nasivi Ravouvou, these guys were big boys. We used to celebrate together. Both have died. When my former mates come and visit me, I feel young again. When they are gone, I feel old. Joe Lutumailagi, Save [Savenaca Waqa], [Sosi] Kaitani, Savenaca Taga and Inosi Tora came to my birthday a few weeks ago.

Henry Dyer: That’s the history here.

Henry Dyer’s comments about Boy Reddy (after the interview): He said he doesn’t have any acres, but he can plant wherever he wants to plant, it is lying idle. But it is all village-reserved. He does this because he counts himself as one of the villagers from Dratabu Village even though he is an Indo-Fijian. He says: “No, I’m not an Indo-Fijian. I am an iTaukei.” We from our villages in Nakavu and Dratabu we call ourselves the koicalevu, meaning that we have something very close in common in tradition and culture and through blood-ties. This goes back to the tribal war times. I would treat Boy Reddy like a koicalevu. The people in the village would laugh at this. We have people like this in Ba too who live their lives with the Fijian boys, such as the Sami brothers. One thing I know for a fact is that Boy Reddy is a full Fijian, although he has an Indian name. He is a Fijian at heart. He has a strong heart, which keeps him alive until today.

He mixed around with the Fijian boys and was so close to the Fijians in the village. The old ladies then, if they saw an Indian boy, they would treat him as their grandchild. They would tell the village not to mistreat the boy and that he is part of our family. You can see all the village boys from the early days went to his birthday. He said: “I’m Indian, but Fijian at heart, not like the other guys.” He was hanging around with the Fijians because he was into soccer. But even before soccer he was hanging around with the Fijian boys. Soccer cemented the relationships.

*****THE END*****

Saturday 26 December 2020

TRIBUTE: A Tribute to Sashi Mahendra Singh, Manager of Ba and The Father of Ba Soccer (1920-1990).


Late SHASHI MAHENDRA SINGH...pillar of soccer

Late Mr Shashi Mahendra Singh is revered and respected in the realms of Soccer in the country. He served Ba and Fiji as a representative player during the period 1939-1954. He was elected a Vice President of the Fiji Football Association (FFA) in 1955 where he voluntarily relinquished the position in 1969. He also served as the National Coachfrom 1960-1976 with a break of two years only. This included Coach of the Fiji Team to the inaugural South Pacific Games held in Fiji in 1963 where Fiji won Silver.

Shashi was a pillar of strength for both the Ba Soccer Association and the FFA. His success as an Administrator and a Coach is reflected by the fact that he was appointed Treasurer of the Oceania Football Confederation where he served for 20 years, retiring in 1988. He had the unique distinction of being appointed Coach and Manager of a Taiwan Team and arranged for a World Cup Game to be played in Fiji between Australia and Taiwan. He was responsible for gaining recognition in FIFA for Taiwan and was awarded a gold medal by the Taiwanese Government for his support.

Shashi introduced the National League competition and created the 1st and 2nd Divisions in the Inter District Soccer Tournament. He was also instrumental in introducing the round-robin format in lieu of the knockout system. He left behind a rich legacy in Fiji Soccer with two of his sons as players and Coach for Ba and one as the National Fiji Coach for many years.

Apart from his love of Soccer, Shashi had a very colorful sporting career that included the following:
Hockey - Foundation Member (1940) and President, Ba Hockey Association; Foundation Member and Selector of Fiji Hockey Association.
Cricket - Player (1938) and Captain for Ba scoring over a century on two occasions; Player for North-Western District against MCC Team; Secretary Ba Cricket Assn, Vice President Fiji Cricket Assn; President Ba Cricket (1970) and Patron up until his death in 1990.
Tennis - Keen player having won Junior Championship of Fiji Indian LTA of which he became a Vice President.
Athletics - keen athlete who was a Foundation Member of the Ba Athletic Association and became Secretary of the Association.
Boxing & Wrestling - 8 years assistance as Ring Side referee of both Associations
Rugby - Patron of Ba Rugby Association.

In recognition of his contribution to sport in Fiji and in particular to the sport of Football both nationally and regionally FASANOC was proud to confer posthumously the FIJI OLYMPIC ORDER to the late Mr Shashi Mahendra Singh.

ichie Ryon Silicon, Rajesh Maharaj and 8 others

Wednesday 4 March 2020

TRIBUTE: "The Star of all Stars - Josaia Tubuna!" (Lautoka, Suva, Ba, and Fiji national-team champion.)

The star of all stars - Josaia Tubuna!!!

Henry Dyer back at Govind Park.
JUST a week earlier, Jo Tubuna, Inia Bola and Semi Tabaiwalu had featured prominently as Ba smashed Labasa 6-0 in a National Football League match in late July 1984.
Bola scored two goals, Tubuna set up one for Isimeli Nale, and Tabaiwalu was rock solid in defence. They were three of a kind, three of a special kind in a special team. They had won just about everything there was to win in local football and were part of the all-conquering Ba side that won the Inter-district Championship an unprecedented six years in-a-row from 1975-60.

Robust Tubuna
The late Tubuna made his debut for Lautoka in 1974. He later moved to Suva in 1976 and played two seasons for the Whites before joining Ba in 1978 after being offered a job as a salesman at Ba Motor Parts.
The man from Naitasiri filled the void left by the retirement of the late Waisea Naicovu at centre back. Tubuna though was much more than just a formidable defender. He had a brilliant attacking game to add to his sound defensive qualities. He entertained local football fans for a good 10 years playing for the Men in Black and the national team.

Dark night
On Friday night, August 3, 1984, Tubuna, Bola and Tabaiwalu were in Tavua. Around midnight, the three with one Kaminieli Tora, hired a van to take them to Ba. Ten minutes into the ride, their vehicle slammed into a fully loaded parked cane lorry on the Kings Rd at Varavu. The driver Solomone Ukitu said “a vehicle coming from the Ba side had its headlights on high beam" and having passed the vehicle he "switched on his own lights to high beam and saw the parked truck just metres away”.
“The truck did not have any park lights on.” Ukitu said he swerved to the right to avoid hitting the back of the truck "but it was too late".

Tubuna tragedy
Tubuna (window side) and Bola were seated in the front alongside Ukitu and were asleep at the time of the accident. “Inia fell towards me when the van hit the truck, which is why he was saved,” Ukitu said. Tabaiwalu and Tora were at the back. Tubuna died instantly when the entire front left hand side of the van caved in from the force of the impact. Tabaiwalu, who scored Ba's winning goal in the 1980 (1-0) IDC triumph over Nadi at Govind Park, and Bola were seriously injured and admitted at the Lautoka hospital.

Shocking news
The news of Tubuna's death spread like wildfire. Fans, his mates and top officials knew that local football had lost a national treasure.
“It is a sad day for Fiji soccer. We have lost a national hero,” FFA president Hari Pal Singh said.
Henry Dyer in Ba Town.
His former Ba and Fiji coach and employer, the late Sashi Mahendra Singh described the gentle giant best, saying he was like “a son” to him.
“He was very obedient, honest and sincere in his work. I loved him very much. He will not be easily replaced. Tubuna may have been a terror on the field, but he also commanded much respect and friendship.”
Ba mayor Kishore Govind remembered his as a “caring” footballer.
“Tubuna's death was an unnecessary waste of life,” Cr Govind said.
“He was a person who gave a lot of pleasure to the people of Ba with his performances on the field. He was dynamic, intelligent, and cared a great deal about younger players. His mastery of the game was as good as anyone in Fiji.”
Ba FA chief Vinod Patel knew what we had lost: “It's a big blow to Ba and Fiji soccer”.

5,000 mourners
Henry Dyer and Inia Bola.
On Monday, August 6, 1984, over 5000 mourners packed Govind Park for his final farewell. Led by the Tui Ba, Ratu Sakiusa Naisau, Tubuna was brought into his favourite ground for the last time. The pallbearers were his Ba and national team mates — Savenaca Waqa, Bale Raniga, Sam Work, Henry Dyer, George Samisoni and Vula Wate. His teammate Meli Vuilabasa and Singh, Ba's father of soccer, broke down and wept openly while paying their final respects. He was later buried at the Fiji Sugar Corporation Cemetery at Naidrodro. Tubuna left behind his wife Rebeka, who was pregnant at that time and five-year-old son Manasa, who went on to represent Lautoka and Tavua at district level. Bola and Tabaiwalu later recovered with the latter going on to coach Ba. That's the story of how the traditional giants of Fiji football lost their giant of all giants. As a 14-year old back then I heard of this tragedy. I heard and read of the man they said was a star of all stars, and although I did not get to see him play, I feel privileged to be able to put this piece together. This is for Manasa, his mum and family, Ba fans, past and present and Tubuna's teammates.

Thanks for the memories Jo.
[First published on 14 February 2013 on Ba Football Association Facebook page.]
Henry Dyer and Ba champion Semi Tabaiwalu, 17 June 2015.
Henry Dyer and Ba champion Meli Vuilabasa, 2 June 2015.
Ba's hardcore travelling fans. Left to Right: James, Unknown, Skull, and Ben.