New Zealand Nadi Legends and Nadi Legends in a group picture after the inaugural Joe Lutumailagi Cup game in Nadi yesterday. NZ Nadi won 2-1.

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Ronil playing favourites: Mustafa

Local Sports

RAMPANT favoritism that goes beyond football has footballer Mustafa Mohammed walk out on Fijian Junior Bula Boys team.

The Brisbane Roar Academy midfielder joined the team in 2021, and was part of the triumphant OFC U-19 Championship last year in Tahiti that qualified for the FIFA Under 20 World Cup 2023.

Speaking to Sportsone Mohammed Mustafa said head coach Ronil Lal has strong connections with some players and prefers them as starters on the first team.

“Excessive preferential treatment,” Mustafa said, who was named the player of the game against Papua New Guinea during the OFC World Cup qualifiers in Tahiti.

He said following the PNG win Ronil named him as a healthy scratch for the rest of the tournament.

Mustafa said dealing with the frustration of lack of game time left him with no option but to call it quits.

He asked if he was not worthy to make the squad, Ronil who was the coach before Rodolfo Zaplata, should have dropped him rather than have him carry extra baggage to Tahiti.

Fiji Football Association chief executive Mohammed Yusuf in response to Mustafa’s father Ifraz Mohammed’s social media post claiming that Mustafa was being treated unfairly, said coaches have the final say in fielding the best 11.

"As the father, you would be concerned right, my son made huge sacrifices to represent the roots, missing out on his important Year 12, school year for a dream drape for Fiji and all he gets is a short end of the stick."

Ifraz said the crux is that he highlighted some of his concerns with Yusuf through an email, and that set off Ronil to target Mustafa.

“I’m to this day waiting for Yusuf to respond to my email, I dare he would, why because everything I said is true and he knows that."

“Maybe the media in Fiji should question Yusuf on the content of the email.

“Man-up and address it, they say embarrassment is like dirty laundry.”

Mustafa said he found it rather strange that before the New Zealand exhibition tour Ronil told him not to expect any game time.

“I don't get it, here you're with the team that would be heading to OFC playoffs and I'm inactive, let alone I get to start in Tahiti and travel with the team to Indonesia.

“Ronil has his favourites and he simply undermined Zaplata in Indonesia that’s all to it, I can say a lot that I saw during my time with the team but that would only embarrass a lot of people, I owe respect to the far and few".

Ifraz said he understands football and that coaches have the final say in fielding the best 11, but was Zaplata naming the team?

“Ronil played him and that is it," said Ifraz.

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