Thursday, 19 February 2015

INTERVIEW: My interview with Dr Raymond Fong (Doctor of Nadi Team 1980s), 24/7/2014

Henry Dyer with hardcore Nadi Fans in Nadi Town on the day of a big game at Prince Charles Park. Although it is not like the old days you can still feel the excitement build in town throughout the day when a big game is scheduled to be played in the evening at the town's soccer ground.
My interview with Dr Raymond Fong (Nadi Football Association Team Doctor, 1980s)

24 July 2014 @ Nadi Town

By Kieran James (University of Fiji)

Kieran James: How did you first meet Henry Dyer?

Dr Raymond Fong: I was the team medical officer when I met him. He was one of the Nadi team players. I was in Nadi Hospital then. The manager of the Nadi team, Hari Kewal, asked me to be the team doctor.

Dr Raymond Fong
KJ: Have you any memories of Henry’s first match for Nadi?

RF: Vaguely I remember his first match. When we look at the Nadi team we had a very good team; we were like the Brazil team. We had Save [Savenaca Waqa] in goal, sweeper Inosi Tora, “Bacardi” [Emasi Koroi], and two very good strikers Manu Poka and Rusiate Waqa. Henry came in and fitted in just like in Brazil’s good days. Our big matches were against Ba. The team was so good that they were considered a rising star.

KJ: What role did Henry Dyer play in the Nadi team?

RF: Playing in the halves; he was an attacking kind of half to score goals. We had Manu, Rusi, and Henry. He was a real thorn in the opposition penalty area. He was a marvellous player. He had the vision which allowed him to be in the right place at the right time.

KJ: Why did you leave your job with the Nadi FA?

RF: I left Nadi because I was posted elsewhere. For those two years 1982-83 we won many trophies and played in so many finals. We were just an amateur side. Now the Under-20 World Cup team is going to represent Fiji. Henry in his time would have made the Under-20 team.

KJ: Do you remember the 1988 Australia versus Fiji match won 1-0 by Fiji?

RF: I saw the match. Basically with Ba and Nadi players we managed to beat them 1-0. If we had professional football then imagine how far people like Henry would have progressed. There is stagnation in Fiji soccer. I blame the officials. If the Under-20 players play their cards right we can be a world force.

KJ: What are your memories of Ba versus Nadi matches from that era?

RF: To beat Ba in Ba was such an achievement. People would never bet against Nadi. We would give them 2-0. Ba-Nadi games even today are like Argentina-Brazil. When Nadi and Ba played each other the ground would be packed. Ba had good players such as Inia Bola (striker), Feroz Khan (striker), and Jone Nakosia (full-back). What Ba did was bring in a lot of huge guys. They would stand on the ball. Ba used power and Nadi used skill. Ba was like a tank; Nadi was like a Ferrari. They would beat us 1-0 based on sheer power. They would come into our half and just run the ball as hard as they could and anyone who stopped it would get bruises.  Nadi would dart between the tanks.

KJ: Which team was generally the better team in these contests?

RF: Both teams had their day. In those days there was no professionalism. Ba used might and power to blast their way to victory; Nadi used classy soccer. Ba would disagree with me. Madigi was behind the Ba pack. Nadi and Ba used to be the champion teams then like Manchester United and Manchester City on their good days. We used to travel to Ba. Beating Ba gave us such a high. We were the only team to consistently beat Ba. We sometimes beat them 2-0 but they beat other teams 5-0. They used to call us The Green Machine.

KJ: Have you got any other special memories of matches against Ba?

RF: Coming back in the team bus to Nadi we would be singing. The businessmen would come to the Nadi Club [located between Lodhia Street and Natovo Lane, just south of Sukuna Road] and give beer cartons. Clubs like that really get their business from the soccer and rugby teams. When they won the clubs would be full of people. We have here in Nadi more rich businessmen than over there. We would drink and drink.

KJ: How would you describe Henry as a player?

RF: On the field I would describe Henry as a genius. People like Henry were gifted. He had no professional support. Henry was at the wrong place at the wrong time. He could have been a successful player in Europe. Over there they take the African players; imagine what Henry could have been. Henry was three or four times better than the Italian star [Mario Balotelli] who made the 2-0 goal against England in the 2014 World Cup. The team had to put him in that position. Henry was more like Messi; he could take two or three guys on. It was a delight to watch that Nadi team. 

He was a rising star; he could really have gone places. When alcohol came into the picture he fell foul of the law. If there had been money to be made in the game then his life would be much different now. On Henry’s good days Roy Krishna [Wellington Phoenix FC] would be nowhere near as good as him. Roy had the opportunity to go to NZ; Henry did not have the opportunity. On the field you could tell he had a good education tactically. He would take the ball from the half and scavenge in the penalty area. Ba would study our pattern and shut us down with their solid defence.

KJ: Have you been to watch Nadi games in recent years?

RF: I have not watched much soccer recently at district level. Before people would take their kava and watch the training. They would go along and encourage the boys. 

KJ: What do you think of the state of Fiji soccer today?

RF: One of the officials went to the World Cup in Germany. There was one Fijian official sitting next to the Nigerian official. The Nigerian asked the Fijian: “in which pool is your team playing?” Sabu Khan was on the FIFA Board of Control. We used to say: “our soccer officials went to the World Cup while our team didn’t”. It was the opposite in rugby. Now they are getting some things right with Fiji Under-20s playing in the World Cup. All the new-generation “Henry Dyers” will now get their chances. In ten years’ time I will tell you “I told you so”. I would be very surprised if some of these players were not picked up by talent scouts to play in overseas leagues. Compared to our rugby players our soccer players are not being snapped up. 

KJ: I do not see the young Fijian boys playing soccer around Nadi Town much these days. How can we inspire the young boys to play soccer?

RF: As a parent I will encourage my son to play rugby so he can play Super-15s. A lot of the Indian parents bought golf clubs for their children when they saw Vijay Singh. Now the Fijian sons are pushed to the oval ball not the round ball. It makes sense as that is where the money is.

END OF INTERVIEW. Note by interviewer: I thank Dr Raymond Fong who admitted me into his room at his medical centre for this interview, taking a space in the quiet of the late-afternoon when there were no patients waiting.

Henry Dyer responded to this interview as follows: “I could fit well into the Nadi Machine. I could attack and defend. When Nadi drafted me I didn’t know. I just went in to enjoy the game like any other youngster. I didn’t know I would be an asset to the team and a thrust in the mid-half. However, I must say that I think Prince Charles Park today has no spirit and has lost its soul”.
Soccer historian Dr Kieran James and "Boy" Reddy who was part of Nadi's first IDC winning team in 1969.
Henry Dyer with Nadi legend "Boy" Reddy who was part of Nadi's first IDC winning team in 1969.
Left to Right: "Boy" Reddy, Kieran James, Henry Dyer, and family members of "Boy" Reddy.
The mostly Fiji Indian local crowd enjoying Lautoka (blue) versus Nadroga (gold) on the Friday afternoon of the 2015 FIJI FACT final series @ Prince Charles Park.
Nadi and Fiji legends Seremaia Tale, Henry Dyer, and Savenaca Waqa @ Navakai Housing, Namotomoto Village, Nadi, 27/8/2015.
Henry Dyer with family members of Nadi defender Inosa Tora @ Namotomoto Village Nadi (2014).
Nadi and Fiji teammates Henry Dyer (left) and Inosi Tora @ Namotomoto Village Nadi (2014).

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