Wednesday, 30 July 2014

FOOTBALL HISTORY: Nadi 2, New Caledonia 0 @ Prince Charles Park Nadi (1983), Henry Dyer remembers

Nadi main street during the flood
Nadi 2, New Caledonia 0, Prince Charles Park, Nadi (1983), by Henry Dyer

Nadi town main street
When Nadi was at the height of its winning streak, New Caledonia toured Fiji and Nadi beat them here at home. This was one game where Nadi soccer team players clicked and gelled so well together that we were able to outplay the New Caledonians. New Caledonia was a strong team. They were positioned second or equal first to the Tahitian team as Kings of the Pacific Soccer. In this game we used Rudi Gutendorf’s methods. It was very easy to implement his pattern of play as most of the Nadi team players were seasoned and matured. The methods included one-on-one tactics where you stick to them in defence and create hidden attacking football patterns which are hard to pick up and detect. I guess because we had a winning combination during the season we did not have much difficulty. As the game progressed we became more confident with our strategies and we were able to control and dictate play. The home crowd had much to do with our positive performance because of its continual cheering. Some of the players in the Nadi side were Tela Qoro, Inosi Tora, and Kini Tubi. They were a tower of strength in defence along with Peter Dean. Their attacking play from the back kept the New Caledonians back-pedalling most of the time. The final score was: Nadi 2, New Caledonia 0. Rusiate Waqa scored both goals (as confirmed in phone conversation with Rusiate Waqa, 5 June 2014). One goal was scored in the first-half and one goal was scored in the second-half.
In the New Caledonia game here at Prince Charles Park Nadi beat New Caledonia 2-0. New Caledonia had just played Fiji and drew before playing another two matches against Fiji which were also drawn. We had just come out of the Fiji camp to play for Nadi. This was New Caledonia’s build-up for the South Pacific Games. The four players from Nadi to be released were Sevanaca Waqa, Rusiate Waqa, Peter Dean, and me. It was because of our return to Nadi from camp that we lifted the standard and the morale of the team even further. Nadi had been a championship winning team. Our manager then was Mohammed Azaad. He was a very professional coach who liked to come and talk to the boys and bring them up to an emotional peak just before the start of the game. He was a very soft-spoken and down-to-earth guy. He was always willing to help when a player needed help with family at home. He was a guy that made sure that the management did their bit to keep the players happy at camp.
Nadi had a camp for that game to prepare as this game was very important for the Nadi soccer supporters. It was the first time Nadi had played an international match against any other team. It was a different feeling to come out from camp with Fiji and play for your district team. You could feel the expectations of the fans for you to create a miracle whilst playing for Nadi. That day Prince Charles Park was totally full of spectators for the first time. This is one of the days I will never forget – playing my heart out because I was playing in front of my home crowd. The day was more memorable because of my young age. The whole of the Nadi community, especially the people from the villages (which are very close to each other and also close to Prince Charles Park), were present at the stadium to watch the game. You could tell by the calls in the Nadi dialect.
Henry Dyer (left) and "Bacardi"
New Caledonia, to my surprise, did not control the game at any point. I don’t know why. It could have been because of the cheering from the crowd. It may have been because we had just expertly read the game. Our central midfielder, Emasi Koroi (“Bacardi”), played a major role in this match. Our defence was really strong with Inosi Tora holding them together. Savenaca Waqa made quite a number of brilliant saves which caused the confidence of our team to increase. Everybody had been playing their part. Peter Dean used his height well to outjump the New Caledonia attackers and to clear the ball. This encouraged us to believe that we could win a victory in every position even before half-time. At the half-time break I, as a young player, was already feeling very confident that we could dominate the second-half and win the match. This was my first international game. This game was where I gained the confidence to play at this level of competition. I was lucky to have broken into the limelight, as I have already said, playing alongside the matured and capable soccer players of Fiji. I think that this was the first time for some of us to play against an international team too. When people ask “how did you do it?”, I must reply: “I don’t know, it just happened”.
At the beginning of the second-half they came back to show that we were going to be in for a difficult 45-minutes. They almost scored an early goal but, unfortunately for them, the kick missed its target. This event made us wake up and mentally rebuke ourselves for falling asleep. This made us start to communicate with each other with a view to shutting off their attacking moves. It took us about 15-minutes to contain the impetus of their attacks. After this we were able to take back the control of the game. We had been able to defeat the New Caledonia forward thrusts. Straight after this our ability to handle this situation, and the cheers of the crowd for us, were the factors which allowed us to psychologically dominate the opposition. Therefore, I really think that in any sport the crowd plays a major role and can even make the difference between winning and losing. But only a team which can play against a hostile crowd will be able to go on to reach their full potential and win more games than they lose. So I guess New Caledonia did not have these qualities on that day. So to win a game is about being mentally stronger as well as about being more talented. To gain all this success is the result of taking all of the hard knocks, training hard, and being mentally aggressive and determined. It is not only about having these qualities but being able to work together in harmony as a team.
Rudi Gutendorf (Fiji coach 1983)
We became heroes in town after this match especially for the two Indian boys, Navneeda Goundar and Manu Pokar. I would walk past the shops in town and I would hear “is that really him?” as I was a very small guy then. Today they see me but it’s not like then. As with any sportsman of the day, people would be eager to talk to you and to know who you really were. They wanted to know where you originated from and who your parents were. Then the gossip would go around. Today nobody wants to know you with the same eagerness. I think this is where Fiji soccer has declined, not only in terms of performance but in terms of atmosphere and passionate support. It is a pity that there is nothing being done to bring the former football players together as they have done overseas at club level. Maybe they have more money overseas but still there is a way to bring the old players back together. Even the fans from those years do not want to know anything about soccer now. I would see most of the fans from that era watching rugby and supporting Nadi rugby. This includes the Indian fans as well as the Fijian fans.

[By the former Fiji national team player Henry Dyer, as told to Dr Kieran James of University of Fiji in Nadi, 22 May and 5 June 2014.]
Prince Charles Park, Nadi for Labasa versus Rewa

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