Monday, 9 June 2014

FOOTBALL HISTORY: My Early Life in Fiji, by Henry Dyer (Fiji national soccer player)

Nadi star players Henry Dyer (left) and Emasi "Bacardi" Koroi in recent times. Henry Dyer started with Nadi, switched over to Lautoka, and then returned to Nadi to finish out his career.

Henry Dyer remembers
Chapter 1
My Early Life in Fiji, by Henry Dyer (Fiji national soccer player)

Nadi main street during flood
My great-grandma, she came from the Dyer family. Her name was Helen Dyer and she came from Yorkshire, United Kingdom. Her history was they came as sandalwood traders and they were at the northern tip of Vanua Levu at Macuata. Her dad married into one of the chiefly families in Macuata, that’s where she got her chiefly status. She got married into one of the chiefly families in Bau. And she had a few children; most of them were boys. Two of them I can remember were Tuni and Jimmy Dyer. They had one sister Martha. Helen Dyer married into the Tuinitoga family in Bau. They were the matanivanua for the vunivalu of Bau who proclaimed to be the kings of Fiji at the time during the colonial era.
Her husband died and she moved down to Nadi meeting up with one Meli Kuba of the yavusa navatulevu from the village of Nakavu. She had two children Anare Tuidraki and Makaret Biau. She later changed their names to Henry Dyer and Margaret Dyer. This was done to make it easier for the children to get jobs within the colonial system. Henry Dyer started to work at the CSR, meaning the Colonial Sugar Refinery Mill, at the age of fourteen. Margaret married into the Watkins family. So here we can see the link between the Dyers in Bau and the Dyers here in Nadi and Lautoka. Henry Dyer was my grandfather and Margaret Watkins was my grand-aunt. My Dad married Vasiti Yalayala of the Namoli Village but she was originally from Rewa (Nalase Village) with blood-ties to the village of Yabaca of the yavusa navatulevu, also known as Nagaga Village up in the mountains in Lautoka.
My Mum came from a religious family. Her grandfather was a missionary [name to be given later]. She came from a family of twelve. Their names were: Ananaisa Diri (a sergeant in the police force, father of Samuela Yalayala); Litia Marama (mother of Paulo Nawalu); Timoci Waivure; Simone Tora; Reapi Lolo; Vasiti Suvewa; Siveniasi Rasaqiwa (“Bosoni”); Anaseni Bulivativati; Josaia Vanua; Ema Nai; Watisoni Nasalo; and Luisa Dria. They were all excellent athletes in a variety of sports. My Uncle Watisoni and my Mum were both sports heroes to me at a young age. They inspired me to become like them also. Uncle Watisoni Nasalo played as a first five-eighth for Fiji [Fiji rugby debut 11 June 1974 versus New Zealand XV at Suva] and my Mum represented Fiji in hockey in 197X.
Sugar City Mall Lautoka
I was brought up in Navuatu (Lautoka) where my grandfather (Henry Dyer) worked in the Mill as a boilermaker. This was when the sugar refinery was run by South Pacific Sugar Mills (SPSM). When I was with my Mum and Dad, we were renting somewhere in Simla (Lautoka). To get a game of soccer with the other boys was difficult because there were only two or three small parks. They were just roundabouts. This was big for us at that age. The Indian boys owned the soccer balls and they would only pick one or two Fijian boys to be in one team. As a youngster if you had the skills you would be picked all the time ahead of the other boys so I was lucky that I was able to play all the time with the boys. Because the Indian boys had money with them in their style of living they were able to control the games. This carried on until I was in my youth when I moved to Namoli and when I was moving backwards and forwards to Nadi. I knew that you had to adapt to their style of living to be in the team. This continued to be the case until I played in the club competition which is when the trend stopped. Then you see all the Fijian boys join in at the clubs. However, I enjoyed mixing with the Indian boys from a young age because I was able to learn their language, culture, and traditions. By contrast, a guy who grew up in the city might find it difficult to adapt. Today I find it easy to mix with the Indian community and you will know what time to leave the group because you can sense that something is not right. If you are sitting in a get-together with the boys you might sense that something is not right amongst them. For example, there might be a feud or a grudge amongst them. It is better to get out before there is a problem. If you don’t know the culture and the tradition it will be like the Gaza Strip where you are just waiting around to be bombed because you don’t know your way out to safety. So I could say I was fortunate to be brought up in the way that I was brought up. I learned a lot of things in life.
Then I moved down to live at my Grandmum’s place in Namoli Village (Nabekavu) because my Mum and Dad split up. Namoli Village is where I first played soccer; I was not taught how to play. I first started playing wearing my Mum’s hockey boots. At primary-school level I was educated at Drasa Avenue School. This was formerly known as the Lautoka European School and it was for the children of the colonial era. I may have been in one of the first cohorts from outside of the colonial system. Before that time the school was for white children only. I went in with the children of the lawyers, doctors, magistrates, and judges. I started school in 1969 and the colonial era ended in 1970. I was one of the first cohorts to get into the school from outside. One reason was my Dad worked for the Sugar Mill then. The other children from outside I remember came from the Waiyavi suburb. There was just a handful of Fijian students there then and part-Europeans. There were also some Indian and European children. Therefore, the school was a mixture of colonial and post-colonial children. I could say that I was quite fortunate to pass through the school at that time. I still meet some of my former school-mates who have since become successful as teachers, doctors, lawyers, and businessmen. I schooled with the children of the Punja Group of Companies. I was rather unfortunate not to make my education through to tertiary level. This was partly because I was living with my Grandmum in the village. There was no culture where children were encouraged or pushed to do their homework. Drasa Avenue students who succeeded were:
Lautoka Vitogo Parade 1973
Faiyaz Fisal Koya;
Rohit Punja;
Ajay Punja;
Waiyavi boys”:
John Ah Jong;
Fale and Litiola Kava;
William, Male, Clive, and Roland Lilo;
Compound Crowd” / “Coffin Brothers”:
Sister Lavonne.
My first time playing soccer was at Drasa Avenue School from Class 3. Then I went on to be in the school team with Sam Work and Niko Lilo also in the same class. I remember there were some talented players whom I admired but they didn’t excel such as Tommy Levy, Peni Qaugau, and Joe Johnson. We became champions of our grade for two years. Drasa Avenue is where we formed a combination of teamwork to lift our primary-school up to win in our grade. We became heroes of our school. Our coach of the school-team was Master Satendra Kumar. Niko, Sam, and I were picked to represent Lautoka Primary Schools for the Inter-District in Labasa 1975. This was the first time that I went in an airplane. Most of us had their first trips on an airplane. There was a feeling that just to go over to Labasa was so great. It was like a visit to another world. I scored two goals in the final. We were the champions of Viti Levu and we played that match as a final against a school representing Vanua Levu (Tambia Primary School). The Lautoka senior players saw me score these two goals. Straight after the game Hippo from the Press Soccer Club invited me to play for his junior club Leopardo. But at this time I was still too small.
Namoli St Lautoka looking towards Namoli Village
In my upbringing in childhood there were a lot of things which helped me become who I am. These things helped me to adapt to anything in life. For example, waking up in the morning to cut firewood with an axe to warm yourself up after a cold night in (Nabekavu) Namoli at age 13 (Class 7) and making your tea in the morning. As another example, going to dig for sea worms by the seaside to use as bait. We had to have the skills to know how to get the baits. To go and get your fish you had to learn how to set the baits first and then you had to learn how to fish.
During the weekends we would paddle on the tin canoes to the nearby island of Bekana to fish on the reefs. By going out to fish regularly we knew what types of fish were on which parts of the reef. We had the names of the parts of the reef such as Quara Ni Kabatia, meaning “the mouth of this type of species of fish” and so on. During paddling back home to the village we would try to be back before the boys would go out for touch rugby so we would have time to go out and play too. If it started to be cloudy or started to rain we had no sight or vision of our village; we only had the landmark which was the mountains. There was a peak and we would just aim for that peak. Even if we could not see the village we would know that we were heading home to safety. So I believe I learned the basics of nature and I learned to adapt as any human being should. So I’m grateful for my upbringing with my Grandmum and my uncles and aunts from the village Namoli. This was when I was brought up in the village.
When we were young kids in Namoli, during the eight-week school-holidays, we would go up to Tavakubu near the cemetery. There was a big guava fruit forest. We would catch the bus up to the cemetery and start looking for guavas for making jam. If you did not have your bus-fare back you had to carry the guavas back down to the village of Namoli which was around five miles away [check this]. We would follow all of the shortcuts from the cemetery down to the Tavakubu Village and then down through where all the Waiyavi Stages 2, 3, and 4 are today. There were no housing scheme buildings there then.
Naviti St Lautoka just before sunset
Sometimes in the heat of the Tavakubu sun, we would be stung by the hornets while trying to pick guavas. If you were lucky you would be stung only once. Sometimes you would be stung three or four times. You would have the pain in your back and still go on looking for guavas. It was like being shot on your arms and still holding your rifle to shoot back with pain. All of your other mates would be laughing at you as the hornets would be chasing you through the guava bushes. You could tell that they were laughing inside. Sometimes, during the holidays, we would go to the same area in Tavakubu River coming down from Yabaca. We would be looking for big and thick bamboo to use to make bamboo guns for New Year’s Festival. We could not afford fire-crackers. This was the way to celebrate amongst the children in the village. It was really noisy blasting these bamboo guns. We would carry this bamboo from the river to the road and wait for the bus. We would put the bamboo baggage into the luggage bays at the bottom of the buses. Back then to carry a bamboo gun through town was a big thing. It was like carrying your New Year’s present back home. I haven’t seen or heard a bamboo gun for ages. Maybe the bamboo gun era has come to a close because of the influx of the fire-crackers. People have more money now and more people can pay for fire-crackers.  People now don’t know what happened at that time. The children then really had to struggle to make their lives enjoyable.
At the Namoli Village Grounds, where the Methodist Church sits now [see Methodist Church picture below], we used to play rugby. We would take our singlets off and we would choose which singlet to wrap and tie into a ball to play rugby. In the evenings after dinner we would come and meet at the old Namoli Methodist Church. This is where the community hall sits today. We would sit there until about 9pm singing Fijian folk songs and sometimes church songs. Sometimes we would become a bit noisy because of all the laughs and all the jokes. Our grandfather, Ratumeli Qoro, who lived just beside the village cemetery two blocks away from the church, would just yell out once and we would all disappear into the dark.
Methodist Church Namoli Village
When I was growing up I knew the family history of the Dyer family.  My grandfather told me when I was small. The Fijians are one race in the world which looks after the children of their sisters whether they are born out of wedlock or not. The Fijian race has a lot of love for its vasu (meaning “the sister’s children”) be they Hindu, Chinese, Indian or South African. They always have this love for the sister. If my sister gave birth to an Indian boy we would not think any better or any worse about that. We only think of the sister and the child.  We don’t want to bring any unnecessary harm into their life. This is where the Fijians, I would say, are one-step higher than other races in culture. My self-identity then was that I was part-European because I had the Dyer name and because of my complexion. I was always known as Henry Dyer in school. There were quite a number of people in my age group in school who would joke to me about my being half-caste and part-European but they knew who I was. As we grew up into youth things changed for all of us. When you are young it is quite difficult to soak the teasing in and to accept it. You are still young and your brain is not ready for all these things. There is no-one to comfort you or to advise you. I learnt the hard way but I’m glad that I came out of it. I think I became more Fijian in my self-identity as I grew older mainly because I live in the centre of the village and because my wife is native iTaukei from the border of Tailevu and Naitasiri (Vatukarasi). So everything around me nowadays is Fijian. It is breakfast, lunch, and dinner Fijian. However, I did enjoy my upbringing.
Lautoka town centre
In my childhood in Namoli Village (I moved there when I was in Class 4 or 5 or around 9 or 10-years-old) I was the family pet to all my grandparents. In Fijian tradition those whom your parents call uncles and aunties are called your grandparents so I had a lot of grandparents. My Grandmum’s (Ulamila Neisau) sister’s (Kesaia Tawa Bouwalu) husband was the chief of Namoli Village (the Taukeki vidilo) Ratu Jone Bouwalu. He was a very good outboard mechanic. I was his boy every afternoon to strip his outboards and put them back together. I was very close to him maybe because I was very young and his grandchild. So getting to Bekana Island for school-holidays was a very easy thing for me to achieve. There is a beautiful beach on Bekana Island facing the Lautoka city. It is just like Akuilau Island facing Denarau Island. They have very similar beaches. Ratu Jone Bouwalu had an old Seagull outboard engine. He would carry this Seagull engine as a standby in the boat. If anything happened to the outboard engines back then the Seagull would never go wrong. It would bring you back home. There was an old man who lived alone on the island. His name was Tai Peni. We used to take his food and water over when we visited. However, to our surprise, he had not finished the food we had brought over previously. Only half had been used. When we asked if there was something wrong and why he hadn’t been using the food he would say he was living off the fish from the sea and the root-crops which he had planted on the island so he was a real islander. The people who lived with me when I was small will know that I am not hiding how I was brought up.

      The belief in witchcraft or voodoo was very strong. In our childhood times we would hear all kinds of stories of the demons’ deeds including taking lives away of the ordinary villagers. At night when we were walking in the village we would have goose bumps because of the stories we had heard. We would all tell the same stories. If someone gave a sudden yell to make fun we would be really terrified.             
My Mum placed me in Ba Provincial Secondary School (Lautoka) so that I could be accustomed to meeting the youth of the Ba province. (Ba Provincial Secondary School is located on the outskirts of Lautoka behind Kashmir Settlement and close to Tavakubu Village Saru.) Most of the students then were from the Yasawa Islands; Lautoka; Rakiraki; Ba; and Nadi. It was a good experience to learn the ways of interaction including the language and dialects of the Ba province. Then we had students from Ra with their different approaches and perspectives on life. There were also students all the way from Vanua Levu but who were living in Lautoka. You could tell that all of the dialects were totally different from each other so one had to be very cautious so that one’s interactions were respectful and could be understood. The students from the Yasawas were very cheerful and they had a traditional Fijian style at school. You could tell from how they talked with other students including the jokes, taunts, and gossip. This would make the day more interesting. You would keep on carrying on talking and joking.
There was this Vice-President, Master Meli. He was from Yasawa and he was a very strict guy. He was very strict because he did not want the relaxed culture of the Yasawa islands to spoil the Yasawa children’s education. The Yasawa boys wanted friends and we also wanted their friendship because they were good ukulele players and good singers. We used to enjoy spending time under the mango trees and in the guava forests which were all around the outskirts of the school compound. We would be singing all the island folk songs. The good thing about these boys is that they know how to strum that ukulele. One of the boys’ names was Luke from the Yasawa Islands. He lives now in Nadi and works as a security guard. His brother is also a security guard. In the past his brother was also a skilful island-style ukulele player.
I played soccer for the secondary school’s team while I was in Form 3 (the entry-level of the high-school). We did not become the champions but we beat some of the larger established schools. To go and play a match against one of these schools was a big thing for me then. We played against Natabua High School, St Thomas High School, and Lautoka Muslim High School. To beat some of these schools was viewed as a great achievement because these schools had much larger numbers and were home to many talented soccer players.
I was playing rugby too at the school but there was no inter-school competition for rugby back at that time. The rugby matches were an on-on-off occasional thing but soccer at that time had an organized inter-school competition. Because I had the skills in the game there was a call for me to play. I don’t know how I developed soccer skills. It was a natural process; the skills just came to me. When I reached club soccer (after high-school) that is when I mastered the game – how to swerve the ball in the air; how to do a banana-kick; how to control and cushion the ball; how to chest the ball; and how to give quality pass to your team-mate which would give him the advantage to create the offense for the team. At this young age this was my life. You had to keep it like it was your bible or your secret. It was just you and God who knows your secret. The secret of the touch was what most players did not have. For example, in defence there was a way, just in your movement, to unsettle him. His mindset would be completely shattered. In the back of his mind he would be psychologically beaten. I was still very young then but I was playing amongst the stars. I had a talent for both sports soccer and rugby.
Samu Yalayala, who became the hero for Lautoka Rugby 15s after scoring a try against Nadroga at Lawaqa Park, was a left-winger for the school in soccer. He used to give me a hard time during rugby games because he was my cousin. He used to have a fierce tackle on me that made me able to withstand the onslaught. Because of my cousin I was forced to take it. This is one of the things that took me through to the heights of my career.  It was great to play rugby and soccer at Ba Provincial School. The ground was not level and had stones all over the place. When you stood up after tackles there would be a big scratch or bruise on your thighs or back. You would be limping to school for about a month and hiding it so that people did not know. You had very little access to any medical care but you had to act strong and try to show that nothing was wrong with you.
In 1978 I was picked for Lautoka Secondary Schools. Our coaches for the school, Master Gajend Prasad and Master [insert name here], were also coaches and managers for Lautoka Primary Schools (the team which won the Primary School IDC at Labasa in 1975). This connection enabled me to quickly be selected into the Lautoka Secondary Schools team. We beat Nadi in Nadi at the Secondary School final at the IDC and we became the Secondary Schools’ champions. I scored a goal in the final. Here again soccer supporters were scouting for promising young talent. Hippo from Lautoka was here again with Bob Tikaram from Airport Soccer Club in Nadi. Bob invited me to play for his club Airport. To achieve these IDC victories [primary-school and secondary-school] at a young age was a huge boost to your self-esteem and morale. You would know that you were capable of achieving success at the senior level.
I consider myself lucky to have been educated at Ba Provincial Secondary School even though I did not make it to the tertiary level. I went through the hard-knocks of life. The Principal of the School then was Dewan Chand. He was very much a philosopher and it was not easy to understand him. The teachers (his staff) were very much high-quality people.        
My Mum was living in Martintar (Nadi) with my stepdad in the late-1970s. My stepdad was the Director of the South Sea Cruises which was then located at the Regent Hotel. Now South Sea Cruises is located at the Marina Bay Jetty at Denarau. My stepdad’s name was John Pettit. He was from Australia. He had two sons, Michael and Graham. My stepdad was a very kind person. He always had a heart to help when help was needed. He had a very good sense of humour. He died last year in Australia (2013). My Mum is still alive.
I remember once, in the late-1970s, my stepdad was living in Kennedy Avenue in Nadi and I used to spend the holidays with him and my Mum coming down from Namoli (Lautoka). My holiday job was to keep the house tidy and to keep the car shining and clean. I used to move the car forwards and backwards on to the lawn and into the garage. Then one day I thought of moving it down the driveway on to the road so all my mates in Kennedy Avenue were waiting on the road to have a ride. So, after driving up and down Kennedy Avenue a few times, I decided to drop them at their doorsteps. Because I did not know much about driving I scraped the side of the door-joints on one of the driveway entrance posts. I was very scared to tell my stepdad about what had happened but I had to because I knew he would find out. At that time I was aged around 17 or 18. When I told him I had damaged the side of the car to my amazement he just said: “oh, so you did a good job of it”, meaning that the job was to clean it but we did another job of going up and down the road. Then he started laughing knowing that I was very relieved. My stepdad gave me and my two sisters the best of lifestyle and living standards that any children could have. He was the type of person that always wanted to have the best cars.
I was a very determined as a teenager to make it in life. While watching the big screens at the cinemas in Lautoka, I saw America and Australia and I thought I wanted to experience the life-style of those places. Straight after high-school I was working on the docks at Lautoka Wharf. This was 1980 and I was around 18-years-old. I decided to board the boat for Australia. My Uncle (Timoci Waivure) was one of the supervisors on the Lautoka Wharf so I had access to nearly all the ships that docked in. The dock-workers had also known me and I was their favourite boy. They would also send me on errands to get things for them and mix their grog. I was just waiting for the opportunity. The boat that we boarded had just come in from Newcastle, Australia. It had brought in some big water steel pipes as Newcastle had been the mining town in Australia. I thought: “why not? I will give it a go”. I had brought our chocolates, biscuits, and water ready in a knapsack. We (three people) slept in the hull. One of the others was Sailasa Vuda aka Stanley “Stan the Man” Cooper, then aged 28, who still lives today in Namoli Village, Lautoka. We had very little food and we were very weak before we reached our destination. I had to go and steal food for us from the freezers at night (mainly fruits). They did not know that anyone had got on board. After the first week it started to get cold. Luckily we wrapped ourselves in a tarpaulin.

       Two days before we reached Newcastle a Portuguese crew-member on the boat came down to check something at the bottom of the hull. He saw us sitting down. He was dead scared and he almost had a heart attack. He wanted to run; he didn’t know what to do. Then we asked him to “please don’t let the captain know”. He assured us that he would see us off at the wharf. Half-time score: Fiji 3, Newcastle United 0! It was very unfortunate that we were seen walking out of the gates at Newcastle Wharf. Full-time score: Fiji 3, Newcastle United 3! We were taken in for questioning and sent back after spending two weeks at Maitland Prison. At Newcastle Police Station I had the opportunity to go for a dash, to get away. However, because it was very early in the morning and the streets were empty, I decided not to run because I would be seen. I was thinking to squeeze into one of the gaps in the shops. I thought: “no, I will give it another try again from Fiji”. However, I never made another try of it because I was successful in soccer. Maybe it was not God’s will.      
Maitland Prison was very clean. It was a big prison and you could see all the different levels of criminals. You could tell by how they talked to you.  Luckily one of my mates, Stanley Cooper, had lived in Australia for more than 15 years. So when we got to the prison we could hear the prisoners calling his name "Stan the Man". This gave us a confidence because people had known us so we got accustomed to the prison within that short time of two weeks. Because we were very hungry we ate nearly all of the leftovers that the prisoners could not finish (especially the small milk cartons).
On the return trip to Fiji we just did very small odd-jobs and made very good friends with the crew. The police were out in force at Lautoka Wharf. We went to court and we were jailed for (another) two weeks. My family said nothing. They asked me: “Why do you want to run away from us?” I said: “I just wanted to go to Australia”. It was a good experience in my life. My stepfather was there. He knew about this too. He said nothing because he was a very busy guy on the job.
Bob Tikaram of Airport Soccer Club later saw me playing touch rugby at the then Airport Club grounds (Nadi Airport Sports Association (NASA) grounds) and he asked me if I was the same guy who had played for Lautoka Secondary Schools. Quite some time (two or three years) had passed between the Secondary Schools Inter-District and my arrival at his club. He mentioned that he would buy boots for me for training which I could not afford. I was living in Nadi now and it made me feel great to be offered soccer boots for training.
During the few years before appearing at Airport’s ground for training (1981) I had not been playing soccer but I had been playing rugby in Lautoka for the Batiri Rugby Club. I played as a half-back. We played with some Fiji rugby players like the Ratudradra brothers (Viliame, Eneri, and the youngest Kitione (“Sunshine”)) and my cousins, Paulo Nawalu [Fiji rugby debut 18 June 1983 versus Tonga in Suva] and Samu Yalayala [Fiji rugby debut 18 June 1983 versus Tonga in Suva], who became rugby greats in the 15s and 7s codes. [Viliame Ratudradra’s Fiji rugby debut was 12 June 1976 versus Australia at Sydney and Eneri Ratudradra’s Fiji rugby debut was 24 May 1980 versus Australia at Suva.] Paulo Nawalu went on to coach the Japanese 7s team. Samu Yalayala scored a try and this led to the winning of the Farebrother’s Trophy in 1979 at Lawaqa Park. Nadroga had held the Farebrother’s Trophy for about ten years. Samu became a hero playing 15s rugby for Lautoka.
Henry Dyer back at Nadi Sangam School where he played his first game
Going back to the subject of my first training with the Airport club, Bob Tikaram saw that I made a positive impact on the team. At my first game for Airport against an old club, or rather one of the pioneer clubs of Nadi Soccer Association, The Blues Soccer Club, I scored an early goal which drew the attention of the then coach of the Nadi team and the national team. His name was Mani Naicker. Joe Lutumailagi, who was the assistant coach of Nadi, approached me to train on Monday with Nadi. I was around 20 years old. Because there was a demand there for my services I chose to play soccer instead of rugby.
We [Nadi] played a friendly match against one touring club from Australia (West Wooden Juventus of Sydney [check club name]). I scored the winning goal. I think it was from this game that Nadi soccer management came to believe that I was a talented player. When I played my first official match for Nadi (1981) it just happened that my picture came out in the papers. A European guy from the Fiji Sun, Peter Lomas, was standing on the sidelines and he took my picture. It was a big picture on the back page with the heading “Henry D., a rising star”. Other players and my friends made friendly comments about the write-up “Henry D, a rising star”. They would say: “Are you a star?” “Hey, star!” Someone said: “Are you related to Lady D?” because Lady Di was very much in the news back then.
I felt good to play alongside star players who had won the soccer league for a few years and they had won some of the tournaments too (Battle of the Giants, Tip Top Tournament). Playing alongside the stars helped me to become a star too. Some of these stars then at Nadi were: Savenaca Waqa (GK); Emasi Koroi (“Bacardi”); Kim Momo; Rusiate Waqa (dynamic striker); Kini Tubi; Inosi Tora; Sosiceni Kaitani; Stan Morrell, Marika Ravula, and Peter Dean.
I met my wife at Churchill Park (Lautoka) while training for rugby as a teenager. I was playing for the Batiri Rugby Club then. My wife was playing hockey then for Waiyavi Hockey Club. They trained at the hockey grounds at Churchill Park too. Her name is Liku Goneyali. She comes from a family of four. Her only brother is Misiwaini Goneyali. Her eldest sister is Tamarisi Tabua. Her youngest sister is Alisi Cabemaiwasa. Her Dad’s name is Sireli Sauleca Goneyali. Her Mum’s name is Alisi Cabemaiwasa. She was known as “Cabe”. My wife’s Dad [Sireli Sauleca Goneyali] played for the Fiji rugby 15s team that toured Australia and he was a giant of a winger with Joe Levula on the other wing. The captain of their team then was Ratu George Cakobau. My wife’s family came from Vatukarasa Village in Tailevu. Liku’s family lived in Waiyavi close to the old FBC radio station and behind the Waiyavi shops. My wife’s Mum comes from Batiki in the Lomiviti group of islands. She was working as a maid at the Lautoka Hospital. My father-in-law was a supervisor for the Lautoka City Council.
When my wife got pregnant with my first child (Neisau Tuidraki) I moved with my wife down to Nadi. This was because when I first took my child to meet my Mum she did not want to let go of the baby, her grandchild. So I could not do anything and I had to stay. This was in 1981. In Fijian custom it would look bad for me to take the baby back to her family until I had prepared to do the Fijian traditional customary protocol. I believe that it was good for me too that my Mum had established a good relationship with the baby and with my wife’s family.
My wife comes from a very religious family. They are Methodists and she used to go to the Coronation Church in Lautoka (behind Churchill Park and opposite the Northern Club). My wife’s family has a civil-service background with a few of them being doctors. I always respect my wife for being polite and humble and for being able to look after our family in the good times and in the hard times. She has a reputation of being able to give me good advice when I am feeling down or confused.
My stepdad (John Pettit) was a great fan of mine in my early days with Nadi. He would come to watch me play at every match at Prince Charles Park, taking pictures with a video-camera on a tripod. He would watch the game all over again at home on the video-cassette player. My stepdad was the only person then doing this at the games, I think maybe because he could afford it and he was the only person devoted enough to the Nadi team to want to watch the games twice. Then he would jokingly tell me, while watching the tape, where I went wrong or what I should have done. Then we would have a debate about the match. He was fun to be around. He looked after me and my two sisters. I was going backwards and forwards between my Grandmum and my Mum until I got a kid.
When I came back to Lautoka to visit family and friends people were surprised that I had become a well-known soccer player because they knew me as a rugby player only. Although I had done well in primary- and secondary-level in Lautoka soccer, this had been largely hidden to the wider public. Only the people I had schooled with in primary and secondary schools were not surprised by my soccer success with Nadi. During my playing days I had six of my children born. The last one (Alipate Driu Tuidraki) was born after I had stopped playing soccer.

[By former national soccer player Henry Dyer in interview with Dr Kieran James of University of Fiji, 1 May, 19 and 26 June, and 1 August, 2014, Nadi. This version last updated 3 April 2015.]                

In 2015 Henry Dyer replicates his first goal for Airport Soccer Club against Blues Soccer Club at Nadi Sangam School Grounds in 1981.


  1. Hi to you all. I have aquestion for you.

    Does the Name Jack Palmer mean anything to you. I ask because I have a karva turtle disk? that was given to me by Jack who has now passed on. He was as far as I can ascertain working for Civil Aviation Administration and acted as a coach for the Fiji Airport football Lovamata Club team around the time of 1955. At the moment the turtle takes pride of place in my hall way but I have thought for a long time that I should try to return it to its original home and it could be used for a perpetual trophy perhaps.
    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Terry Chapman ex Civil Aviation Flight Crew Licensing Auckland.

  2. Dear Terry, Henry Dyer played for Nadi during the 1980s and first joined Airport Soccer Club in 1981 when Bobby Tikaram was the boss there. I doubt anyone can remember as far back as 1955 but I will certainly ask around for you. Best regards, Jack Frost.