|Savenaca Waqa (left) and Henry Dyer @ Navakai Housing, Namotomoto Village, Nadi, 27/8/2015.|
Interview with Savenaca Waqa and Seremaia Tale (Nadi and Fiji Legends)
27 August 2015 @ Seremaia’s house (Navakai Housing, Namotomoto Village, Nadi)
By Henry Dyer (Nadi Legends Club) and Kieran James (University of Fiji)
Note: Manasa Tamanivalu was also present at the interview
Henry Dyer: When did you start playing soccer?
Savenaca Waqa: 1974, our club was the Tanoa Soccer Club.
Henry: Who do you remember playing with in that year?
SW: Rasool Dean, Joe Lutumailagi, Marika Vuniyawaz, Eliesa Varoi, Samuela Dawai Lutumailagi, Boy Reddy, and Prem Chand.
|Seremaia Tale, Henry Dyer, Savenaca Waqa|
Henry: When did you get into the Nadi team?
Henry: So most of your club mates were in the Nadi team at that time?
Henry: What tournaments did you play for at that time?
SW: Mushanti Lal Trophy, Jim Pratap Trophy, North West Tournament, and IDC.
Henry: Did you win any tournaments then?
SW: We only played in finals against Ba in the IDC. We won the Top Top Tournament but I cannot remember which year. We won the BOG [Battle of the Giants] three years in a row. The first tournament we won was in 1977 in Ba for the Air Pacific Trophy…
Seremaia Tale: Air Pacific Cup.
SW: Air Pacific sponsored the cup and the prize was $15,000. I can’t remember the year. The first BOG was held in Ba in 1978.
Henry: Nadi beat Ba that year [KJ note: Nadi won 1-0].
Henry: What was your best year playing soccer?
SW: In 1975, that was the first time the IDC was held in Labasa [KJ note: It was actually the second time that the IDC was held in Labasa after the first time in 1969.]. I was the youngest, 18-years-old, the others were veterans. We played on Saturday and when there was no light we continued the semi-final on the next day (Sunday). We played 0-0 on the first day and on the second day Ba won.
Henry: You only reached the semi-final in that tournament in that year?
SW: Yes [KJ note: Ba beat Suva 1-0 in the 1975 IDC Final.]
|Dr Kieran James (University of Fiji) & Savenaca Waqa|
Henry: What year did you get into the Fiji team?
SW: That same year.
Henry: Who was the other goalkeeper who was accepted into the Fiji team that year?
SW: John Gray and me.
Henry: Nicholas Rounds?
SW: No, I remember at that time it was John Gray, Vula Wate, and me. They were both older players than me.
Kieran James: You beat Australia 1-0 in 1977?
SW: That was at the old Barker’s Park in Suva, I was reserve goalkeeper. Jimmy Okete scored the goal; Vula Wate was the goalkeeper.
KJ: Do you still remember the 1982 IDC Final?
SW: In Nadi? Yes, I remember the penalty-kicks.
Henry: You were supposed to kick the last kick?
SW: Yes, my leg was swollen. I had taken a painkiller from Dr Raniga.
Henry: [Dr] Raymond Fong was there too that year. … So your leg was too painful that you could not kick the ball? What excuse did you give?
SW: The Ba officials complained about the light; I took that as an excuse. They did not know about my leg.
KJ: What did you think when Ba turned up at the replay?
SW: The two sets of officials said they would share the trophy for six months each. The boys were full drunk, half of them were full cut. The Nadi team was in town celebrating after the first (original) final in Nadi.
KJ: What was your reaction to the replay of the final in Lautoka?
SW: It was too late for us then. We went on a drinking spree. We thought we had a win but then later the Ba team walked on to the pitch in Lautoka without us.
KJ: Do you think Nadi should have played the replay?
Henry: After Ba had won the IDC how did you feel then?
SW: I felt sorry for the public who had been waiting for the trophy…
Henry: For the soccer public of Nadi.
KJ: Good comment.
Henry: Did you still get on well with the Ba players after that?
SW: We were still friends after the game.
KJ: Did you see any of the Ba players recently?
KJ: Did you remember the 1985 game against Newcastle?
[No answer, question perhaps not heard properly.]
Henry: Did you enjoy playing that game? [Fiji 3 d Newcastle United 0 in Nadi, 1985]
Henry: In that game how did you rate them?
SW: They are from the top grade, the first division in England. I also played against Tottenham Hotspur in Lautoka. I don’t remember the year.
KJ: What was the score?
SW: We lost 4-0.
|Henry Dyer & sister of Savenaca Waqa|
KJ: What was the reason you could beat Newcastle?
Henry: What was the secret of the team that day?
SW: Plenty of the boys were under Rudi Gutendorf at that time including the coach Billy Singh.
Henry: Do you think Rudi’s favourite soccer patterns still continued on?
SW: Yes, and the core of the team was still the same.
KJ: Were you surprised to be able to win?
SW: We beat them 2-0.
KJ: Do you remember making many saves that day?
Henry: How about the skills of the Newcastle team?
SW: Now when I see them on the TV I remember that time when they came to Fiji. It takes my memories back. I am amazed today that we could play at that level. That is the history. Nowadays we are just kick and run.
KJ: Now, looking back, do you think this was the most important match you played in?
Henry: Was that the peak of your career?
SW: I think for the Newcastle game we were under the influence of a professional coach in Rudi.
|Savenaca & Manasa Tamanivalu|
KJ: When the soccer historian Bill Murray heard about this score from me earlier this year he said that you can’t win 3-0 just by luck.
Henry: Did any overseas clubs approach you?
SW: Yes, Newcastle, Johnny Warren’s club (Canberra City), and another team which I forget.
KJ: Why did you not want to take up those offers?
SW: I can’t remember, I just did not want to go.
KJ: Do you remember the game against Australia in 1988?
SW: No, I retired in 1987. The goalkeeper was Akuila Ravono. [KJ note: The GK was actually Nasoni Buli.]
Henry: So, Save, which other goalkeepers did you respect because they had the calibre and class?
SW: Bale Raniga.
Manasa Tamanivalu (rugby player): Why did you prefer Bale Raniga?
SW: Because he is my best friend.
Manasa: So just because he was your best friend you respected him as the best goalkeeper?
Manasa: So in your years of playing you prefer Bale as the best keeper. Were there any others that fight for that position?
SW: No, at that time Bale was Number One. When Rudi Gutendorf came to Fiji Bale became Number Two.
Henry: Save does not talk; he is like a cat in the air.
Manasa: Like a tiger in bed [laughs].
Henry: Going back to the 1982 IDC penalty shoot-out do you remember saving any?
SW: Nadi missed four. [KJ note: Both teams scored six goals and missed four before bad light stopped play.]
Henry: Do you remember saving any kicks?
SW: Yes, Julie Sami’s kick. [KJ note: Save made a mistake here, Julie Sami took the fifth penalty-kick for Ba and he scored.]
Henry: Why do you remember Julie Sami’s kick?
Save: It was the last kick. After that was my kick. [KJ note: This is not correct. The last Ba kick was taken by Rupeni Soro who missed.] I saved the day for Nadi.
Seremaia Tale: You were the cream, man.
KJ: What did you think of Meli Vuilabasa?
SW: He is a good player.
Henry: What do you mean by a “good player”? In what way? Rough player? Sensible player?
Seremaia Tale: Same as you!
SW: Whenever Meli gets the ball in the penalty-box there were more chances of his team getting a goal because of his distribution of the ball and his ability to score goals in the box. I am very sorry that Joe Tubuna had passed on. He was one of the greatest players.
KJ: How did you feel when you first heard about Joe’s accident?
SW: I remember the days we played and drank together after the games and sleeping in the same room. We really enjoyed those times and after he passed away I really missed him.
KJ: What did you think of Inia Bola as a player?
SW: He could head the ball. He was deadly with his head and his placekicks.
KJ: Who was the best – Inia Bola or Rusiate Waqa?
SW: Because he was a fast player. Wherever the ball is he is there.
Henry: Rudi was the disturber in the defence.
Manasa: That means he was the one making a lot of noise in that area.
KJ: What did you think of Semi Tabaiwalu as a player?
SW: He was a good defender, one of the best.
Henry: Why do you say “one of the best”?
SW: He is steady, he reads the game.
Seremaia Tale: Steady at the back.
Henry: So Semi was one of the most valuable players?
SW: Yes, he played mostly in the right-back.
|Savenaca - winning coach of Nadi, 2002 IDC|
Henry: How about Mohammed Hussein?
Henry: He can’t answer the question [laughs].
Henry: It’s a funny thing, man.
KJ: What do you think of Inosi Tora in defence?
SW: He was a good player.
Henry: What do you mean by “a good player”?
SW: He was a good defender.
Henry: Strong? Hard? Tough?
[These questions were not answered.]
KJ: Were there any other good players?
SW: “Bacardi” [Emasi Koroi] was the master mover for Nadi at that time. Also [Sosi] Kaitani and Henry Dyer. … And Kini Momo, as well as Manu Pokar.
KJ: He is the best [meaning Henry Dyer].
Seremaia Tale: Best in the west.
SW: He makes moves when he has the ball. I think Henry was one of the best in our days. You hardly find players in the Nadi and Fiji teams nowadays like Henry Dyer.
Henry: What do you like most about Henry Dyer?
SW: He also encouraged the boys to keep playing until the last whistle even when we were losing.
KJ: Do you have any regrets in your career such as not going to England?
SW: No, I am happy living here in my own village and in my own country.
KJ: What do you think of these two goalkeepers – Savenaca Waqa and Seremaia Tale?
Henry: They had the same skills, they were flexible.
Manasa: They were the heroes of our time. But logically Save will always be the greatest because he came first. He taught Seremaia the basic skills of being a good goalkeeper.
Henry: What Save learned in his years of playing he passed on to Seremaia quickly so Seremaia became a better goalkeeper faster.
Manasa: Also because they had the same height and same build. What makes it stronger is that they have the same blood ties.
Henry: They are related from the same tribe and same landowning unit (Namotomoto Village) so the blood ties are fairly strong with them.
Manasa: It is just a legacy that Savenaca passed on to Seremaia. You can look around the room and see the gold medals around. This is what Savenaca passed on to Seremaia, like father, like son. It is the same legacy passed on from father to son. So Savenaca started off playing in the Fiji team and Seremaia was the last of the clan to don the Fiji goalkeeper shirt. It is everyone’s dream to put on that jumper so they were glad.
KJ: Which team was the best – Ba or Nadi? How can you compare Ba’s six-in-a-row IDC wins with Nadi’s four national league titles?
Henry: How can you compare?
SW: I prefer Ba.
|Henry, Savenaca, Seremaia @ Fiji FA Veterans' Dinner|
SW: Because they won six-in-a-row [1975-80].
Manasa: And that record has never been beaten by any other district.
KJ: Do you think it is harder for Fijians to become coaches or officials than Indians?
SW: The problem is that you have to attend the clinics Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. We have to attend those clinics and then we can coach that team. This is the only difference.
Manasa: Compared to that level then Fiji soccer is going nowhere. They played real soccer then.
Henry: Constructive soccer.
Manasa: And people loved watching the game then and loved playing for their district. Then money did not come first. Love for the district came first.
Henry: All they wanted was a carton of beer.
Manasa: After one game they sold their souls for a carton of beer. I’m sorry to pitch into this discussion.
KJ: No, this is good.
Henry: But that’s the truth.
KJ: Is it just because of the coaching certificates or is there something else?
SW: That is the rule from Fiji FA.
|Henry and Nadi Hardcore Fans in Nadi Town|
Manasa: What I reckon is this: It is whom we know in Fiji Football. They are defending who will be the next president of Fiji Football. One guy from Vodafone contested but he could not win as the big guy from Ba had the money and he knew how to control people’s minds. What I’m saying is true. I play rugby. Rugby is different because they still play for pride in representing their province. I’m glad I associate more with these people here – Mr Waqa, Mr Tale, and Mr Dyer. They share the same sentiment.
KJ: Do you hope to coach any more teams?
SW: No, I don’t feel like getting involved in coaching any teams.
Manasa: What are the issues which need to be resolved?
SW: The CEO of Fiji Football now [Bob Kumar] was then the secretary. How is there any new blood? The old people are still there. We really need new blood.
Manasa: Soccer is dying out now; it is not growing. These are the words coming from a rugby player [smiles].
Henry: But with a lot of interest in soccer.
Manasa: Yes, I played soccer in primary schools.
Henry: Save, did Fiji Football or Nadi Soccer at any time approach you and give you free match tickets?
SW: No, never.
Seremaia Tale: No, not at all.
Henry: So you are the forgotten heroes.
[KJ note: Save coached Nadi in 2002 for Nadi’s last IDC win.]
KJ: Why did you leave as coach?
SW: Because I did not have the Level 1 cert.
Henry: This is the same as Semi’s case [Semi Tabaiwalu] when he also won trophies. Up until today Nadi has not won another IDC.
KJ: So you were coach for only one year?
Henry: That’s a [great] record – to achieve the IDC in only one year.
|Hardcore travelling Ba fans stopping for one last drink in Lautoka on the way back to Ba after 2015 FIJI FACT in Nadi 2015. Skull is third from left and Ben is fourth from left.|
|Fiji teammates Henry Dyer (left) and Semi Tabaiwalu @ Ba|
|The barman at Ba Central Club accepts a drink of Fiji Gold from Henry Dyer while Ba and Fiji legend Semi Tabaiwalu (first on left) looks on.|
|Henry Dyer in Ba Town on a quiet working day recalling great matches and great friends from the past.|