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Nadi's 1969 IDC, star laid to rest

Fiji Sports

Former football adminstrator Bobby Tikaram and Jo LutumailagiFormer football adminstrator Bobby Tikaram and Jo LutumailagiJOELI Lutumailagi, Nadi’s star footballer on the victorious 1969 Inter District campaign was laid to rest yesterday.

Paying the final respect while observing the Covid -19 protocols on mass gatherings, were close families and a handful of former footballers.

Affably known as Jo, in footballing circles, his playing career spanned over a decade, (67-79).

He represented the national football team in the 70s.

Following his retirement, Lutumailagi worked as an assistant to Nadi’s head coach Mani Naicker, later coaching the team in the 88-89 football season.

His 1969, IDC winning teammate Saizad Tom Khan, who was a debutant, said what separated Lutumailagi from the rest was his strength, skills, and leadership.

“We don’t get to see a footballer like him often, that was Jo, he was a menace of a winger”, said Tom.

“Hard knocks, bring it on kind of a guy, he was tough and strong”.

Tom said for a player of Lutumailagi’s physique, he was fast and who would skirt past defenders with pure ease. In 1978, he formed the Tanoa FC, a team that boasted a core of district players of the 70-80s era.

With him as the coach, TFC won the first National Club Championship in 1986.

Among the other tributes to flow from the soccer world, Nadi’s former secretary, Mohammed Sattar who said Jo’ left behind a footballing footprint of pure class, both as a player and coach.

“An amazing footballer, very Nadi and dedicated, the district has lost a loyal son”.

Sattar said Jo rose to the football pedestal and was as revered and respected.

Kamal Sahib, Jo's 75-79, teammate recounted the latter as being a true champion of the game, dedicated and disciplined.

“Great footballer of his time and amazing personality”, said Kamal, who was nicknamed ‘King’ for heading exploits.

Kamal said Jo represented a certain glorious past.

“He was a symbol and a legend of the sport in Nadi”

Jo’s passing leaves 3 surviving members of the triumphant 1969 IDC team, Tom Khan, Rahmat Nabi and Teddy Boy.

Tom and Teddy reside in Vancouver while Nabi is in Toronto.

Jo was 74.

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