STAR OF ALL STARS - THE LEGEND RAVUAMA MADIGI
HE was the man with the golden boot. His record of three winning goals in three Inter-district Championship finals remains unmatched.
Ravuama Madigi was a match winner. He was the man for the big moments.
His class and ability as a marksman was obvious from a very young age. Having represented Fiji in youth football, Madigi's first taste of top flight victory came in 1986.
It wasn't a rosy start though. Madigi was substituted midway through Ba's opening game as they lost 0-1 to a Charles Work goal for Nadroga.
That was on the opening day of the IDC at Ratu Cakobau Park. The Men in Black, under the guidance of former captain Vimlesh Singh recovered, and squeezed their way into the semi-final.
|Kieran James with Inia Bola, Madigi's brother, June 2015.|
This set up a rematch with Nadroga in the final. With the likes of ginger-haired Ilikimi Tulalevu, Work, Abraham Watkins, Radike Nawalu and veteran goalkeeper, the late Luke Waqa, Nadroga was tipped to repeat the feat of day one.
But Madigi had other ideas. He broke through and went around Waqa before the latter brought him down and gave away a penalty.
Madigi nailed the spot-kick and Ba, having played the promotion/relegation against Tailevu Naitasiri the year before, were back where they belonged, at the summit of Fiji football. "That was the only time I played with my brother (former strike sensation, Inia Bola)," said Madigi about the 8-1 victory over Tailevu Naitasiri.
The '86 IDC win was a special moment for stopper Hurricane Naivivi. Having lived in the shadows of the great Bale Raniga, Naivivi got to play the semi-final and final after Raniga got injured in the final pool game.
"Naivivi stood in the bus all the way from Nausori to Ba drinking beer. He was overjoyed," Madigi recalls. "This was his moment, one that he was so looking forward to having been on the bench for so many years."
In 1991, the Madigi magic came to the fore again. The venue was Prince Charles Park and Nadroga the opposition in the IDC final.
Nailaga villager Taito Bula chipped the ball into Madigi's path and he let fly with a volley.
In goal for Nadroga was New Zealand-based Vinod Kumar, who went on to represent Fiji. Kumar could only parry the effort back to Madigi.
Madigi reacted quickly. Seeing Kumar off his line, he nodded the ball over him into an empty goal. Ba won 1-0 to clinch the Lloyd Farebrother Trophy.
Madigi was one of the most feared marksmen, known not only for his finishing prowess but also his lethal strikes. He was equally good with both feet and the power, velocity and pace of his thunderous drives got the better of some top goalkeepers.
In 1986, while warming up for the Fiji-Minsk Dynamo (a Russian side) match at the National Stadium, a Madigi thunderbolt struck Nadi stopper Savenaca Waqa on the head and he was stretchered off with former Navua rep and Fijian double international Iliesa Bolabiu getting the call into the run-on team.
"He said if it wasn't for me he would have played that game." That was when Nasinu's Tagi Vonolagi got his first break into the Fiji team as a reserve goalkeeper.
Ba fans were left stunned when Madigi switched districts to Rewa and lined up against his former side in the 2001 IDC final.
It was unexpected. Why did he leave?
He was 37 but for Rewa, old was gold. Madigi showed even at that age that he was born to relish in big matches. He struck with a free-kick. A stupendous strike from the edge of the box that gave Ba stopper Laisenia Tuba no chance. Rewa won 1-0. So how did Madigi feel about burying his home team at the Laucala turf?
"I saw things as a sportsman. I did it for the team I represented and I was proud about the fact that it took a Ba player to give Rewa an IDC win after 29 years," Madigi said.
Leaving Ba was not easy though.
"We had built a very strong bond both as players and with the fans," he said
"When we drank beer, we challenged each other in that. When we played soccer, we challenged each other likewise. We were more than just a team, we were a family.
"Then there were the fans. They were very close to us. From the fishermen to the farmers, they'd do everything to keep us happy."
Madigi's goal scoring exploits were not only restricted to district level. In 1988, he scored a memorable goal that remains etched in the hearts of all Fiji soccer lovers. His 67th minute strike for Fiji shocked the Australian Socceroos 1-0 at Prince Charles Park.
"I just loved scoring goals. That feeling of the ball hitting the net and me running around to celebrate with teammates and fans was unique."
Madigi himself was unique. Perhaps the finest hit-man in the history of Fiji football, a local legend, an icon.
[Source: Unknown; found on Facebook.]