Monday, 23 November 2015

NEWS: Sam Lal inspires Lautoka Veterans to Develop Soccer in Sugar City, 23/11/2015

Henry Dyer and Wally Mausio @ Lautoka Club, late 2014
NEWS: On Monday evening 23 November 2015 about 25 Lautoka Veterans and Supporters gathered at a bure at Lautoka Club to plan for the development of soccer in the district. The meeting was led by Sam Lal (ex-LEEDS UNITED SC / LAUTOKA) on a visit from Sydney. Present at the meeting were Pita Dau (Fiji soccer captain versus Australia 1988), Semi Bai (Lautoka GK), Wally Mausio (Lautoka defender), and Roblin Autar (ex-Lautoka coach 1988-2005). Fiji Times and Fiji Sun reporters were there too as was the man defeated by Rajesh Patel in the recent FFA presidential election (Mr Shailendra Prasad). Maika Kasami was the man present from Fiji Sun. Henry Dyer and I were there at the venue by chance on the night and we joined the group.

Sam Lal addressed the group and then asked for speeches from the floor. Sam suggested the assembled veterans work to assemble a development squad independently of Lautoka FA. He said nobody can stop them doing that including the district leadership. He said it was a terrible thing that the club competition had fallen apart in this once proud and successful district. He called on the veterans to build up an 8-club competition or if that is too hard a zonal competition of zone versus zone (eg Rifle Range, Field 40, etc.) He said that the young players must be taught the great history of Lautoka which prior to 1970 was the most successful district in Fiji and he reminded people that the late Joe Tubuna was first a Lautoka player before he was claimed by Ba.

Next to speak was Roblin in his usual flamboyant style dripping with a hard dash of cynical realism. He said that when he was Lautoka coach (1988-2005) he had worked on building up a strong development squad with Jerry Ladawa but the best players had been lured away by other districts. He ended his talk by referring to his sacking as coach by the district association which he felt was how the association viewed all of his developmental efforts.

Wally Mausio mentioned that the attitude of the young players was even more important than talent and he was clearly referring to attributes such as humility, perseverance, loyalty to the district, pride, and respect.

Henry Dyer spoke of the Nadi Legends Club which is a social club made up of Nadi veterans which involves itself in community welfare such as assisting ex-players' families, attending funerals as a group, visiting sick former players,  as well as regular social meetings. He noted that he had said to the Nadi Legends Club that the club will just die when the veterans die unless the club fields a senior team in the Nadi club competition (starting in the lowest division and working up). He noted that the best plan was to own their own block of land and build a soccer ground and grandstand / social club. He pointed out that financial troubles led to the last village-based side Sweats SC folding in the 1990s / early-2000s. He suggested that Lautoka veterans take into account what Nadi Legends have been doing (which includes operating this website). He said that buying land was cheaper in Lautoka than in Nadi area.

Then Dr Kieran James from University of Fiji said that it was a bad thing ("weak" and "stupid" even) that Lautoka FA put up no resistance to moving home games out of Lautoka this year due the unavailability of Churchill Park's main stadium. He said that fences could have been put around any rugby field in the city to host games just as was done for festivals. He said that not playing games in Lautoka for one year might lead young boys to support Ba or Nadi instead. He said this should never happen again.

After the talks the veterans and supporters enjoyed beers courtesy mainly of Mr Sam Lal.

The next meeting is at LAUTOKA CLUB, Tuesday 1 December, starting at 5.30pm. All ex-players and supporters are welcome [by Kieran James].

Henry Dyer (right) with a former member of now defunct senior club team Sweats SC who lives in Namotomoto Village. Sweats SC was the last village-based club team to play in the Nadi club competition and it reached the Nadi premier division and the NCC. It was coached by ex-Nadi players Rusiate Waqa, Henry Dyer, and Sosi Kaitani. The picture was taken at Aanvi's Fast Food (now also closed).
Fiji Sun reporter Maika Kasami (left) with Nadi Legends Club members Henry Dyer (centre) and Seremaia Tale @ FIJI FACT 2015 beer-parlour, Prince Charles Park.

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