|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.
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.|