|Nadi and Fiji teammates Henry Dyer (left) and Inosi Tora @ Namotomoto Village, Nadi (2014)|
Henry Dyer remembers
Nadi 7 versus Ba 0 (1983 national league)
In this national league match at Prince Charles Park, Ba had most of their star players including Bale Raniga as goalkeeper. It was on a hot sunny afternoon and before half-time we had already put in four goals. This was around 1983. At this match Ba had nothing to lose and nothing to win for. They were already out of the running for the national league title.
|Henry Dyer and family of Inosi Tora @ Namotomoto Village|
In the second half, we scored the fifth goal. We then started to fool around because of the goal margin. Nadi needed to win by five goals to get the league title over Lautoka. We asked ourselves (because most of the players from Ba were our mates in the Fiji team): “Should we leave the score-line as it is or ask them to assist us to widen the margin?” They said they would give us another two.
As we scored these last two goals we were playing constructive soccer but the spectators did not know that Ba was already giving in and we were also not playing wholeheartedly because of our western region and national league comradeship. Most of the Ba players were from Nadroga so we were western regional comrades as well as national team comrades. Our relations were very intact. The people did not understand this. When the indigenous Fijians get together that creates its own new and different reality. Even the people who lived with them every day would not know what was happening. When the day is over the damage is done. This is to show that Fijians (indigenous Fijians) are always intact. If there is a big game, such as Farebrother’s Rugby Challenge from two vanuas (from different provinces, say Nadi and Naitasiri) (a vanua means that there is only one paramount chief in that area) the emotion gets intensified and they could kill each other in the nightclub after the game. However, after this has happened, because of the links of our ancestors (the first Fijians), we both declare that we were wrong and that the violence should not have happened. We accept our oneness and unity. This is what the Fiji military force is all about. All in all, the Fijians are very particular and sensitive and aware. The Indian players on both sides (Ba versus Nadi) were with us but I don’t think they would have really understood what was happening between the indigenous Fijian players. I think until today it is still the same.
The late Joe Tubuna was playing in that Ba team on that day. I scored two goals, Rusiate Waqa scored some, and the rest must have been from the midfielders and the strikers. I cannot remember. Ba had their best players in the team. Before the game we told them in advance that it was no use for them to play their hearts out because we were going to play our hearts out and really go for the win. Psychologically we had the upper hand before the game started. I think before the game Ba was positioned around third or fourth. Bale Raniga had a very bad day. He lives now in Sydney, Australia. He was a massive guy and standing in the goal-mouth he looked like a lion in the cage. He was always talking in his loud voice from the back. By contrast, Savenaca Waqa, as he is now, was very quiet on the field of play. He was a more classical goalkeeper. I would say that Save was the greatest goalkeeper of that era in Fiji but I admired Bale because he was the talker for the team always bringing the team together. Whenever he came in to substitute for Save in the Fiji team he always made an immediate impact in the goal area just because of his talking and the instructions he would give us from the back. I used to enjoy playing with these senior players such as Stan Morell in the libro position (meaning “last man down” because he was getting the scolding from Bale from the back and he had to relay these messages on to the team). When you were in a team that was full of classical, unique, and fit players, you enjoyed playing the game and you could imagine that without being amongst these players you would not be able to perform.
|Savenaca Waqa (left) and Henry Dyer (27/8/2015)|
I would say that, like any other winning sports team in the world, it is the blending of unique talents that made the Nadi and Fiji teams excellent and untouchable. This applies also to our Fiji 7s team which won three Hong Kong 7s tournaments in a row from 1990 to 1992. It was the blend of players which gave them a unique mixture which the other teams did not have (Ratu Kitione Vesikula (coach); Noa Nadruku Tabulutu; Waisale Serevi and the rest of the Nabua boys, including Mesake Rasari, the soldier). In that era it was the sheer guts and potential that the Fiji soccer boys had which was decisive. Today to match that you have to put money down on the line to get to that standard. You need coaching clinics and dieticians and all those other things which characterize the modern era. Now they are paid so highly in professional rugby that soccer (which is a bigger sport worldwide, played and watched by millions) is not able to operate on the same level as that here in Fiji. The question is: “Why is this?” Rugby was down at a low point economically here in Fiji but it has now risen and jetted off to another height. Fiji rugby has been at number nine in the world which is a very high ranking. (The ranking was number 11 as at 30 May 2016. Fiji’s best ever ranking has been number nine in both 2007 and 2015.) The rugby competition has been aided by Fijian players playing for overseas clubs and then coming back and making a huge difference.
The Fiji rugby officials have done a lot for the clubs in Fiji and they have succeeded in lifting the standards because of coaching clinics and other initiatives. I know that Fiji Football is doing some things to lift the standards of soccer but it really does not seem that it is enough. They need to try out some new systems and ideas. They should take ideas from overseas and bring them back here. They should encourage more local boys to play overseas and they need to improve contacts and networks with overseas clubs. A good example is Croatia which has a population of only 3.5 million people but which can play in the World Cup finals. They need to study the integrated systems operating in countries such as Croatia. They should go to FIFA and ask for support and assistance. Fiji should be playing a leading role in soccer in the Pacific. If we had beaten Australia back then in 1988 why can’t it be done again now to show the world of soccer that Fiji soccer exists in the Pacific? It might even be good for tourism. It seems that since 1988 Australia has gone forwards while Fiji has gone backwards.
Australia won the Asian Cup this year 2015 whereas Fiji is not even the top-ranked team or second-ranked team in Oceania. Fiji Football needs to look at these things. It tends to pay too much attention to the district level and not enough attention to the national level. It seems that the main objective of the officials is to keep control of the game rather than exploring various ways of improving it. This is why the same tournaments are run year after year and nothing changes. When the overseas Fiji Indians come back to attend local soccer tournaments they are very interested in just reliving their past memories of the Fiji which they remember. This could be another factor which encourages the officials here to just keep on repeating the same tournaments year after year without innovations.
You never hear of any Fiji soccer players making a name for themselves overseas except for Roy Krishna. In rugby you hear every week of a new Fiji player, and some of them are young and unknown, succeeding overseas. You even read of young school-leavers becoming rugby stars beyond the shores of Fiji. On page 40 of Fiji Sun on Thursday 9 April 2015 it was announced that Keegan Linderboom (ex-Waitakere United) and James Hoyt (ex-Auckland City youth representative) would play for Ba in the Oceania Champions League (source: W. Nasokia, “Imports boost ‘Men in Black’”, Fiji Sun, Thursday 9 April 2015, pp. 39, 40). This demonstrates the point that Fiji soccer only imports but it does not export. Hoyt was in fact born in Varadoli, Ba and migrated to New Zealand in 2002 so he is not even an import as such but purely the bringing back of a local talent. Hoyt (age 24) did not go overseas to play soccer as an adult but simply migrated overseas with his family as a 12-year-old.
Footnote: On Thursday 9 April 2015 it was announced that the Punjas Group of Companies will sponsor Lautoka FA for FJD35,000 a year which is a record at local club level according to Rajnesh Naicker, LFA Vice-President and league chairman (source: W. Nasokia, “Punjas $35,000 Boost for LFA”, Fiji Sun, Thursday 9 April 2015, p. 38).
[By the former Fiji national team player Henry Dyer, as told to Dr Kieran James of University of Fiji at Mainaka’s Café in Nadi, 9 April 2015.]
|Kieran James (second left, top row) and Henry Dyer (third left, top row) with Fiji FA president Rajesh Patel (second left, bottom row) @ Ba Central Club.|
|Ba and Fiji legend Inia Bola's wife and grandchildren , 17 June 2015|
|Henry Dyer with Ba and Fiji legend Inia Bola and his granddaughter, 17 June 2015|
|Inia Bola and family during his playing days|
|Henry Dyer with Ba and Fiji legend Semi Tabaiwalu and family @ Ba (20 June 2015)|
|Henry Dyer with hardcore Nadi fans on the afternoon before a big night game at Prince Charles Park. Although it is not as good as the old times you can still feel a buzz around Nadi Town on the day of big home matches.|
|Henry Dyer with Ba opponent Julie Sami and his wife Sheh Sami in Ba (1 October 2015)|
|Henry Dyer with Ba and Nadi fans before the 2015 IDC Final Ba versus Nadi @ Govind Park.|
|Julie Sami, Henry Dyer, and young Ba fan before 2015 IDC Final @ Govind Park.|
|Henry Dyer with Nadi legend "Boy" Reddy (member of Nadi's first IDC winning team of 1969).|
|Nadi legends Seremaia Tale, Henry Dyer, and Savenaca Waqa @ Namotomoto Village Nadi (27 August 2015).|
|Henry Dyer and sister of Savenaca Waqa @ Namotomoto Village Nadi (27 August 2015).|