|Bill McKinlay Park, Auckland - the venue for the third and final game of the 1985 NZ tour. The final score was New Zealand 2 Fiji 0. If we look only at the scorelines Fiji improved as the tour went on.|
Fiji tour of New Zealand (June 1985)
By Henry Dyer
|L to R: Cheetah, Epeli Kosa & Henry Dyer|
We toured NZ later but we did not do well I think because we were not using the European soccer pattern from Germany. We had a good combination of youth and seasoned players who were travelling on this tour to represent Fiji. The youth players were Ivor Evans, Akuila Rova, and this tall Muslim boy from Ba (Mohd. Aiyub Bai). The seasoned players were Savenaca Waqa, Abraham Watkins, Meli Vuilabasa, Stan Morrell, Rusiate Waqa, Sam Work, and Kelemedi “Cheetah” Vosuga. In the backs there was Stan Morrell, Abdul Manaan, and me. In the midfield there was Meli Vuilabasa, Kelemedi “Cheetah” Vosuga, and Tony Kabakoro. In the forwards there was Ivor Evans, Rusiate Waqa, and Akuila Rova. The Goal-Keeper was Savenaca Waqa. The reserve Goal-Keeper was Suka Tuba (from the since relegated Nasinu Soccer Association). This was the core of the team which I vividly remember. We had the cream of the crop there. Unfortunately we lost all three matches. Maybe it was due to the complacency and the extremely cold weather. We had to turn on the electric blankets before we went to bed. It was the first time for me to use an electric blanket and to see firewood burning in a modern cement house. It was all new to me. It must have been a very new experience for most of the players and especially for the younger boys who had just joined the squad. This was the first time for me to go overseas, outside of the Pacific Islands region, to represent the nation.
We did not do too badly against the NZ team in the three matches even though they almost walked all over us in every game. The opening match was played at Mount Maunganui on 3 June 1985 in front of a crowd of 2,250 people. The second game was played at Childers Road Reserve, Gisborne on 5 June 1985 and the attendance was 1,500 people. The third and final game was played at Bill McKinlay Park in Auckland on 7 June 1985 in front of a crowd of 1,000 people (“New Zealand International Matches Details: 1980-1989” at rsssf.com). The scores were: 5-0 in the first game, 3-0 in the second game and 2-0 in the third and final game (Mohit Prasad, Celebrating 70 Years of Football, 1938-2008, Fiji Football Association, Suva, 2008, Appendix VII, p. 94; “New Zealand International Matches Details: 1980-1989” at rsssf.com). We managed to hold them back with our individual strength in defence. We would have been thrashed badly if we had lost our composure.
|Childers Road Reserve Gisborne - second game venue|
I learned a lot on this trip. Looking back, from the perspective of today, I believe that we had a missing ingredient within the touring party. I think it was the motivator or mentor. One factor was because the German coach Rudi Gutendorf had left the team. The English play pattern, which he had brought from Germany to Fiji in 1983, had been grasped by the senior players who were able to implement it with skill. In two years, in the absence of Rudi in Fiji, the attacking and the defensive patterns had faded away to the extent that most of the boys by then had adapted to a new pattern. So it was a mix of the old and the new. I always take my hat off to the local coach, Billy Singh, for taking the Fiji soccer team through until he passed away. If there had been a senior person close to the team as a motivator or mentor, such as the late Joe Tubuna, his appearance on the field with a few words of encouragement would have made a lot of difference. Billy had played with him and so they had already developed a working partnership. The boys respected Joe as a player, a captain, and a leader. He had the art to charm the boys with his smile and his talk. He got along well with the boys. He was a very down-to-earth person. I believe that if Fiji Football had thought about these small things, such as taking along a motivator or mentor to psych up the team before the games, the performance of the team could have been improved.
|Bill McKinlay Park - third game venue|
I remember the first game we played at Mount Maunganui. As I said, we played our hearts out. At times we started to argue amongst ourselves. No-one knew that we were arguing because it was in the Fijian language. It was only about how to strengthen our defence and how not to take any further punishment. As what often happens in Fiji soccer today there was a lot of crowding up and no-one on the side-lines to tell us to use the flanks. There was no-one who was reading the game from outside to tell us our weaknesses and our strengths. There are two points here. There was no motivator and no strategist or technical adviser. However, during this tour, the Fijian community in NZ looked after the boys well. They were there to cheer the boys on during the games and they hosted the boys after the matches were finished.
Today when the national team leaves our shores they should consider that they are taking Fiji’s name and that they are going as ambassadors. They should be prepared to counter and display all aspects of the modern approach to the game. They should have a structure to their play. It would be better to have two or three patterns and they stick to those two or three patterns. Then if the team or the squad changes the pattern is still there. I know it will not be easy to reach this standard of preparation and performance. It will not be done overnight. It will take a period of time, perhaps three years or five years.
|Bill McKinlay Park, NZ v Mexico, Aug 1980|
I hope that Fiji Football can look into these issues especially when the various national teams go on overseas tours. Our national team and the Under-20s team should both have at least two overseas tours per year. This will bring standard and composure to the players and bring the teams’ games up to the modern world standard. It is a wonder that the other Pacific nations which we used to thrash, such as Solomons and Vanuatu, are now our biggest threats and continuously beat us. I don’t know what is happening with our performance as we play more tournaments and league matches than any other Pacific nations. We have the talent in the villages and in the rural settlements in the cane-belt areas (the western region of Viti Levu plus Labasa) to become a successful soccer nation at Oceania level and possibly beyond that. If we could beat Newcastle United, Australia, and NZ in the 1980s, I am sure that with careful strategic planning and expert leadership we can be close to NZ and Australia or even above them. I pray that one day maybe government or FIFA or Oceania Confederation would come in to evaluate and alleviate all aspects of the game’s management and performance. When we were doing well in the past the rugby crowd and players used to follow us. They mingled with us very closely because in our performances we had shown ourselves to be a notch above them. Beers were given to us by the soccer crowd just like a packet of cigarettes today. You would just walk into a shop and they would give it. This is evidence of the support which existed for soccer back then but the game was heading in the wrong direction because there were no overarching strategic plans either on-the-field or off-the-field. Today rugby may be laughing at our sport of soccer because of the placing that they have in the world rankings compared to our placing. The talent in the villages is a constant factor and can be used to play either or both sports. Therefore, rugby’s success compared to soccer’s must be due to superior strategic planning and management. I believe that Rajesh Patel has the vision to put Fiji back on the soccer map.
|Abdul Manaan (Fiji)|
Unfortunately Fiji’s soccer success in the past is not widely known among the younger people. If the younger soccer fans knew about Fiji soccer history then it would be a source of pride and inspiration. When former star soccer players go to watch the senior games today the crowd do not seem to know them or consider them as anybody. However, little do they know that they were the driving forces of soccer in that previous era. Soccer history largely exists in verbal form rather than in written form in Fiji and this means that it can fade away as one generation disappears. Lack of interest is another factor for the dearth of substantial written soccer history in this country. To recap, the 1985 tour of NZ was a lesson for me personally and for Fiji soccer.
[By the former Fiji national team player Henry Dyer, as told to Dr Kieran James of University of Fiji in Nadi, 26 September 2014.]
Source: Prepared and maintained by Andre Zlotkowski for the Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation (New Zealand).
Note 1: Henry Dyer is listed here using his Fijian name Tuidraki.
326. (164) International Friendly Jun 3, Mount Maunganui, attendance: 2,250 New Zealand 5-0 Fiji (Colin Walker 30', 64', 69', Kevin Hagan 33', Greg Little 61') New Zealand: Clint Gosling, Richard Mulligan, Ceri Evans, Malcolm Dunford, Keith Hobbs, Duncan Cole [c], Kevin Hagan (Declan Edge), Colin Walker, Greg Little, Peter Henry, Peter Simonsen. Coach: Kevin Fallon. Fiji: Waqa, Salesi, Watkins, Manaan, Morrell, Tuidraki, Evans, Waqa, Work (Aiyub), Viulabasa (Tubi), Vosuqa (Rova). Coach: n/a Referee: Gary Fleet (New Zealand).
327. (165) International Friendly Jun 5, Gisborne, Childers Road, attendance: 1,500 New Zealand 3-0 Fiji (Colin Walker 32', 59', Steve Sumner 36') New Zealand: Clint Gosling, Richard Mulligan (Greg Little), Ken Cresswell, Malcolm Dunford, Keith Hobbs, Sean Byrne (Ceri Evans), Peter Simonsen, Duncan Cole [c] (Peter Henry), Steve Sumner, Kevin Hagan (Kevin Birch), Colin Walker. Coach: Kevin Fallon. Fiji: Waqa, Watkins, Manaan, Morrell, Tuidraki, Shah (Tubi), Evans, Work, Viulabasa, Kabakoro (Vosuqa), Rova (Waqa). Coach: n/a Referee: John Cameron (New Zealand).
328. (166) International Friendly Jun 7, Auckland, Bill McKinlay Park, attendance: 1,000 New Zealand 2-0 Fiji (Steve Sumner 8' pen, Shah 64' og) New Zealand: Frank van Hattum, Richard Mulligan (William McClure), Ceri Evans, Malcolm Dunford, Keith Hobbs, Duncan Cole [c], Peter Simonsen, Steve Sumner, Peter Henry, Greg Little (Kevin Birch), Kevin Hagan. Coach: Kevin Fallon. Fiji: Waqa, Watkins, Morrell, Tubi, Tuidraki, Shah (Salesi), Evans, Waqa (Kabakoro), Work (Vyas), Viulabasa, Vosuqa. Referee: Bill Munro (New Zealand).
Note 1: Henry Dyer is listed here using his Fijian name Tuidraki.