Thursday, 29 May 2014

FOOTBALL HISTORY: Fiji National Team 3, Newcastle United (UK) 0, 25 May 1985, Henry Dyer remembers

Henry Dyer (left) and Emasi Koroi ("Bacardi") in recent years

Sevenaca Waqa (Fiji GK) saves. Semi Tabaiwalu looks on

The first match, Fiji National Team 3, Newcastle United 0, Prince Charles Park, Nadi, Fiji (25 May 1985)

“The game was played in the afternoon and the temperate was about 34C,” recalled Malcolm Harrison in April 2014. Malcolm Harrison is originally from Whitley Bay in North Tyneside and he has lived in Fiji since 1974. Malcolm added that: “Newcastle had just flown in from New Zealand and, to put it bluntly, looked knackered”. The Newcastle team included Peter Beardsley, Glen Roeder, Gary Megson, George Reilly, John Anderson, Kenny Wharton, Dave McCreery and a teenage Paul Gascoigne (Harrison, 2014).

By the time of the (1985) match against Newcastle United, I [Henry Dyer] had become a matured player. I was playing on the right-flank in defence. Kelemedi “Cheetah” Vosuga (10th minute), Rusiate Waqa (the striker) (15th minute), and Sam Work (60th minute) scored for Fiji. This game was like the climax of my career. After leading against Newcastle I could feel that they were dancing to our tune. So we played with more rhythm. I was dictating play from the right-flank. At one stage, towards the middle of the second-half, it just came to my mind what the German coach [Rudi Gutendorf, former Fijian national coach] had taught us at training (although he had already left by this time). When you are winning or in control of a game you are the King of the Pitch. So I used this teaching at that instant in time by passing while in defence to the Goalkeeper Savenaca Waqa and yelling at Savenaca Waqa not to clear the ball but to pass back to me. We did this passing to each other for a couple of minutes. By this time Newcastle United had fallen back in defence because of our attack.  Because of what we had done, me and the Goalkeeper, this made the crowd shout and cheer for us because we had controlled the game. I could see the frustration in the Newcastle United players’ faces. The players included Chris Waddle and John Anderson (the two attackers) and Peter Beardsley. I remember Peter Beardsley had deft footwork and soccer skills that made us dance around him in defence. He had no problem in getting the ball away. The first match was won 3-0 (Mohit Prasad, Celebrating 70 Years of Football, 1938-2008, Fiji Football Association, Suva, p. 44).

The Fiji crowd was roaring that day. Fiji could not believe that our soccer standard was still there. I think it was because of the combination of the matured and the younger youth players who had gelled together bringing in with them their tactics and skills they had learned over the years. After this match the Newcastle management mentioned in the headlines that they could not believe that Fiji would do so well. They mentioned the two players who would make it to the English First Division [now the EPL] namely myself and Ivor Evans. However, no-one ever approached us. We don’t know whether they asked the officials to negotiate with us or not but nothing eventuated. This was a big thing for both of us to be mentioned as being able to match their level of play.

“The crowd went mad when Fiji won,” said Malcolm Harrison in April 2014. “I have to say Willie McFaul was very good, as was Neil McDonald and Gary Megson,” he said. But Harrison revealed some of the Toon players, a bit aggrieved by the result, did themselves no favours by snubbing the local fans after the game.

The second match, Newcastle United 2, Fiji National Team 0, National Stadium (Laucala), Suva, Fiji (28 May 1985)

After two days we played in Suva. It was a cool evening. Our coach [Billy Singh] mentioned that they would come back with force because of the Suva weather which was true. “It kicked off at 7.30pm this time,” commented Malcolm Harrison. “It was cooler and there had been a bit of rain”. We lost 2-0 to them. John Anderson and Peter Beardsley scored a goal each. We had some chances, some good chances in fact. It was just not our day. The game was even but they just had the finishing skills. Only in some aspects of the game I could tell that their level of play was a bit higher than us. This is what they capitalised on. The crowd cheered us until the end as they knew we had a chance. The players were happy not to lose by more goals. The crowd was around 20,000 at the first game and around 10,000 to 15,000 at the second game.

[By the former Fiji national team player Henry Dyer, as told to Dr Kieran James in Nadi, 8 May 2014 and 15 May 2014.]
Reference: Mike Kelly, “Meet Malcolm – the biggest Newcastle United fan in Fiji”, Chronicle Live (UK), 27 April 2014, available online at:

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