Monday, 27 October 2014

FOOTBALL HISTORY: The veterans' tournament in support of Jone Nakosia's family, by Henry Dyer

Prince Charles Park, Nadi was the venue for the veterans' tournament held in 2012 or 2013 to support the family of Ba legend Jone Nakosia. It was organized by Nadi Legends Club and not by Fiji Football.

Henry Dyer remembers
The veterans’ tournament to support the family of Jone Nakosia
Nadi main street. PCP is about 800 metres to the right.
The Nadi Legends Club arranged a charity game for one of the former Fiji soccer players. He was the Ba soccer great Jone Nakosia. The tournament was called the Jone Nakosia Veterans’ Tournament. It was especially done for fundraising for his children’s welfare. Since nothing had been done for the former players by Fiji Football we thought we should do it ourselves. We should look after each other so the younger generation could see what we had done so they could do better themselves in their time to come. It was not a big tournament since it was a new thing for Fiji soccer to have a veterans’ tournament. Most of the other district veteran teams were more than happy to join in so as to get back together and kick the ball around, after so many years, with the other veteran teams. It was like a get-together. The tournament did not make much money but the meaning to it was more than a fortune. The tournament was held at Prince Charles Park, Nadi. The teams were Suva, Nadi, Nadroga, Ba, and Lautoka [check the teams].
All the former soccer players were very happy to play the game again and to give back to a friend. This tournament was held last year or two years ago (2012 or 2013). This went worldwide on the web. Then the former soccer players from Fiji overseas started calling us back and asking Nadi Legends why they were not invited. We said that we did not have the funds to bring them over and another thing was that the tournament was organized at short notice. We just wanted to give something back to the Nakosia family in appreciation of his service to the game as a player. The soccer-loving fans of the nation from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s were very glad to hear that at least something had been done for the veteran soccer players of Fiji. Fiji Football felt that they had lost out on a marketing opportunity. I don’t blame Rajesh Patel and his officials today because this should have been done a long way back in Sabu Khan’s time as President. Rajesh picked up what was lacking in Fiji soccer which was the opportunity to go worldwide. This year at the IDC there was an official veterans’ soccer tournament in Nadi, including overseas teams such as NZ Lautoka Masters, NZ Levuka Masters, NZ Nadro Masters, and USA Masters, and this was organized by Fiji Football. I wonder whether if Fiji had the money and the veterans’ tournament was organized by the players themselves what Fiji Football would have looked like. All of the veteran players would have been jumping on to this side of the field and the upcoming soccer players would have been with Fiji Football. It would have been like us, the former players or veterans, saying to the young players: “we are waiting for you. When you have stopped playing jump over to the other side”. That would have happened if we had had the money.
The Ba players at our tournament were very glad that the Nadi Legends put up a tournament for the purpose of fundraising so as to give back to his family. As I said, the money raised was not much but the meaning was very significant to the supporters as Nikosia had played for Ba and Fiji for more than a decade. His career was much earlier than mine.
Before Nikosia’s passing away we had visited other soccer greats of Fiji either at their home or at hospital and/or we had attended their funerals. One player whose funeral we attended was Nicholas Rounds. He was a former Fiji Goal-Keeper and coach for Lautoka. The other was Marika Vuniyawayawa whose funeral was held in the first half of 2014 at Sikituru Village (Nadi) on a day when there was a huge amount of rain out-of-season. Marika was a veteran full-back for Nadi. He played many years before my playing career. We visited him two weeks before he passed on at his home. He had some kind of sickness in the throat and he could not speak well. However, at our appearance, he sat up just to meet us. He could hardly talk well but he was talking with the fire from inside. This shows how a veteran will feel when he sees another colleague or mate coming to visit him in his time of need. As old friends we told him to go and have his rest as we could see he was struggling to talk to us. He said he would not go to rest until our group had left his house, so we had to get away fast! We had to leave in such a way without him knowing that we had to get away so he could have a rest. We had been doing this in the spirit of looking after each other during your good and your bad days.
Henry Dyer (left) & Emasi Koroi (Bacardi)
We went to visit Emasi Koroi (“Bacardi”) in Suva (Suvavou Village) about a month ago (September 2014). Bacardi had a mild stroke but he survived and was back walking freely again after about a week. As anybody who knows Bacardi will vouch for he has a strong will. When we arrived, like all good friends, he was glad and asked us to drink kava with him (although he had been told not to drink it). You could tell that the spirit was alive in him. We took a minibus down from Nadi to Suva. There was Inosi Tora, Savenaca Waqa, Seremaia Tale, Vilikesa Driu, Savenaca Taga, Kini Tubi, and me. That was the core of the Nadi team from our soccer playing days. We all put in a special effort to go to visit Bacardi. Someone had called us from that side to say he had the problem. Bacardi still goes to district soccer games sometimes. He still supports Nadi as he is a Nadi man at heart. So the rhythm of looking after each other is still present. We are in tune with the rhythm. We are thinking of visiting some other players who are close by to us in the near future. Some of them are much older than us but in respect we must see these guys to show that we are not just doing this for ourselves. We want to tell them what has been going on. Former players from other districts have shown interest in joining our Legends Soccer Club because they feel that we still work together as a team. They would prefer to join our club to be as a team. Other districts may have veterans’ clubs in operation but the members are not from our era. We are the predominant club featuring the former players from the 1970s and 1980s. With the other veterans’ clubs the players would be much younger. Jerry Ladawa and Joeli “Polo” Tora both travel from Lautoka to join us. They travel together down from Lautoka to Nadi to join our meetings and our visits. This is the true soccer spirit at heart which is clearly visible at Nadi Legends Club. Jerry and Polo both get on well with Savenaca Waqa either because of same age or because they all played together at one time or another in the Fiji team. Jerry was earlier than me in the Fiji team, around 1979.
Nadi Legends Club is really trying to show to the soccer fans and to other former district players that we should always look after each other on and off the field. When someone is falling down we should pull him up.  As one of the songs says you can’t keep a good man down. Why? Because there are people such as the Legends Club there to pull him up! One reason we have been together as a group and helping each other is that it is a culture and tradition which we are used to in the villages. We were brought up in this way since childhood so it is nothing new for us. The focus just changes from the family or the village to the soccer club. I am glad that our forefathers brought us up this way - to look after each other. If the Nadi Legends Club is funded or financed by some corporate body I believe that it can reach another level again from where it is now. Mahend Singh, who was instrumental in the formation of the club, and the rest of us are committed to the vision of remaining as a unified group with a common purpose whose members look after each other. The next step forward might be to have a physical meeting place or headquarters. At the moment the veteran club trains at the Nadi Muslim College, which is good because it is central for everybody. However, the club hopes to have a senior adults’ team in the Nadi Association club competition in the future.

[By the former Fiji national team player Henry Dyer, as told to Dr Kieran James of University of Fiji in Nadi, 16 October 2014.]

Nadi Legends Club, 7 June 2014. Copyright Fiji Sun 2014. 
This picture is used with the kind written permission of Fiji Sun
Left to Right: Fifth from left on the fifth (top) row is Joeli ("Polo") Tora.
Fourth Row: Unknown, Unknown, Nemani Barnes, Peter Dean, Jerry Ladawa, Unknown, Savenaca Waqa (GK), Inosi Tora.  
Third Row: Vikesa Vriu, President Mahend Singh, Roland Mar, Warsage, Kini Tubi.  
Second Row: Unknown, Savenaca Taga, Unknown, Henry Dyer.
Front Row: Ben Campbell, Seremaia Tale (GK), Eroni Matanitobua, Joe Saukuru, Don. 
People identified by Henry Dyer.

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