Wednesday, 19 August 2015

OPINION: "Why Ba beat Nadi in the 2015 BOG semi-final at Govind Park", by Henry Dyer, 20 August 2015.

I was sitting at the game next to a group of Ba supporters halfway up and in the centre of the grandstand at the Xavier College side of the ground. Towards the end of the game I said to them: "Ba deserved to win" (speaking in the past tense although the game still had some minutes to run). Then I headed with my friend around the ground to watch the last few minutes standing up in front of the scoreboard with the eagle eyes of the local police force trained on me. Why did Ba deserve to win? Because for most of the second-half and for all of extra-time they played intelligent possession football where they built attacking moves up carefully from the back-line and did everything they could to keep possession. One of the best players for Ba is Alvin Singh who takes control of the pitch around his centre-back position and is always thinking strategically one, two or three moves ahead. He is always looking to give team-mates an opportunity and is a great distributor of the ball. However, if teammates are all in fifty-fifty situations, he will retain possession even if this means passing backwards. He has clearly had good coaching whereas most Fiji players are very poorly coached with no tactical understanding of the game. Soccer here has fallen a long way since the days in the early-1980s when both Ba and Nadi teams were full of skilful and intelligent footballers who brought Fiji up to Number 90 in the World Rankings. From what I saw at the 2015 Oceania Champions League Fiji players' skill-levels and tactical understandings are now the worst in the region.

Henry Dyer @ Govind Park.
What can I say about Nadi's performance versus Ba? Like in the nursery rhyme when Nadi is good they are very good (well, not really) and when they are bad they are horrid and I mean really horrid. Remember the 2014 Oceania Champions League when Nadi were totally appalling and a disgrace to Fiji soccer? I met Mr Navaneeda Gounder (Nadi President) in Nadi Town during the week after the BOG semi-final game and he said to me that Nadi lost because the boys were "unfit". I did not agree with him and I put my view forward to him at a later meeting when Dr Hari Kewal was there listening in the background. I said to Hari Kewal: "We had no structure. We had no control over the game". At this BOG semi-final game Nadi players panicked and just off-loaded the ball by bashing it up-field to fifty-fifty situations. They should have been taking control of the ball in defence and then carefully creating attacking moves (turning defence into attack). Perhaps they got tired because this sort of schoolyard football is far more tiring than possession football because in possession football you tire the other team out by constantly holding on to the ball and making them come to you (which takes up their precious energy). I think Nadi does not have good-standard coaching today. Nadi players kicked the ball to fifty-fifty contests most of the time and Ba players won more of these than they lost. It is not all the ball-carriers' fault as possession football cannot be played unless players aim to get into and create empty space. When Nadi was 1-0 ahead they stacked the defence which did no good at all as three Ba attackers were easily a match for eight or nine Nadi players. Instead the midfield should have been flooded with players. 

Some might say I am too hard on Nadi because it won the 2014 Fiji FACT final in Nausori against Suva. However, I was at that game and Suva was by far the better team for most of the game. One Nadi long-ball shot just happened to make it through for the goal against the run of play and despite Suva's overall dominance, better skills, and smarter strategic thinking [by Henry Dyer and Kieran James, 20 August 2015].
Henry Dyer (left) with ex-Ba and Fiji striker Inia Bola, Inia's wife, and Inia's granddaughter @ Soweri Village, Ba Town, 17 June 2015.
Ba and Fiji legend Meli Vuilabasa (left) with soccer history researcher Kieran James (University of Fiji) (centre) and Henry Dyer @ Meli's house, Natalacake Village, Ba, 2 June 2015.
Henry Dyer and Meli Vuilabasa remember the old days of great Nadi versus Ba contests and great times with the supporters and sponsors afterwards during the 1970s and 1980s.
Some of Ba's most dedicated hardcore traveling fans including Skull (third from left) and Ben (fourth from left). This picture was taken when the guys stopped in Lautoka for a drink after the Friday night of the 2015 Fiji FACT in Nadi.
Henry Dyer (left) and Inia Bola point over the hills to Soweri Cemetery where the body of their Fiji teammate Joe Tubuna is buried.
Former Nadi and Fiji teammates Henry Dyer (left) and Inosi Tora @ Namotomoto Village, Nadi, Fiji, late 2014. Inosi Tora has been promoted from village headman to Nadi District Council representative for the ITaukei at the national level.
Left to Right: Fiji Sun reporter Maika Kasami, Henry Dyer and former Nadi and Fiji goalkeeper Seremaia Tale @ Fiji FACT in Nadi 2015.
Henry Dyer with Nadi fans at the beer-parlour, Friday night @ 2015 Fiji FACT in Nadi. You know who you are!
Henry Dyer with Nadi legend Vivekanand "Boy" Reddy @ Dratabu Village, Nadi, June 2015. Boy Reddy played in Nadi's first IDC win in 1969.
Henry Dyer with Nadi legend Vivekanand "Boy" Reddy @ Dratabu Village, Nadi, June 2015. Boy Reddy played in Nadi's first IDC win in 1969.
Fiji soccer history researcher Kieran James (University of Fiji) with "Boy" Reddy, June 2015.
Left to Right: Boy Reddy, Kieran James, Henry Dyer, and two family members of Boy Reddy @ Boy Reddy's house, Dratabu Village, Nadi, June 2015.
Henry Dyer (left) has a late-night drink at Renee's Pub, Naviti Street, Lautoka, after Nadi's 2-1 league defeat of Ba at Govind Park on 6 March 2015.

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