Canada claims the Legends Division of the FANCA Muslim Silver Jubilee tournament with a 4-3 shootout win against Australia at the Prince Charles Park in Nadi, Fiji : FANCA photo

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Football shame, call for goverment to step in

Opinions / Analysis

THE pessimism is real when it comes to football in Fiji. The sport that was once talked about for its standard and competitiveness has seen its fair share of the worst in show.

While the Fiji Football Association drummed up its performance, poor results over the last 3 decades tells a different story.

Look no further than the Tri-Nations tournament where the national team was schooled on every facet of the game by the teams that once got obliterated in the region.

Losses to Vanuatu 2-1, Solomon 2-0, and with the luck of a 2-2 draw against the U20 team, the national team’s football standard is the worst considering the huge financial grant it’s getting from FIFA.

Vanuatu and Solomon and other Island Nations that suffered heavy defeats in the 80s-90s, and without financial backing now beat Fiji with pure ease and to suggest Fiji FA is satisfied with the team’s performances is preposterous.


The Junior Bula Boys who got beat to a pulp, during the Indonesian international friendly lacked tactical and technical elan of the game.

Pawan Singh was involved in a brawl that saw three Fijian players sent off during their 4-0 loss to Indonesia.

Singh punched an Indonesian player as a melee broke out in the game’s final minutes. He has since  been dropped from the team.

And coach Rudolfo Zapata, who has been deemed unfit to coach the team and returned home, had voiced his displeasure at the players indiscipline.

A well placed source revealed to Sportsone that Zapata, who had only been with the team for two months didn’t like the attitudes of some of the players who he felt were ‘all that’ and ‘seem to know it all’.

He said Zapata knew what he was up against, given the players had formed a bad habit of playing ‘whatever style’ of football and changing it would have been a task.

“Bad habits are hard to break”, he often made a mention of”, he said

It’s learnt that Zapata didn’t see a competitive environment, adding the players were not totally committed.

Zapata emphasized the need of maintaining or regaining possession of the ball, under the pressurizing challenge from opponents, restricting the space and time for players to read and to assess a situation and to adapt themselves successfully.

All of which was hard for players to grasp, he added.

“Can’t collect a ball safely, initiate a pass, a run, a turn, a feint, carry out some surprising unpredictable moves, in order to help themselves or a teammate score a goal”.

Mustafa spills the beans

With the basics amiss, the U-20 team under Ronil Lal, who Mustafa Mohammed, a former U-20 player had a fallout over ‘favouritism’, and unfair treatment said the team will be in for a ride when they lock horns with some of the worlds best teams during the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

The Brisbane Roar academy standout observed closely the influence Lal, who was Zapata’s assistant, had on the team and played favourite’s over talent.

Mustafa was with the team for almost 2 years and had seen the unprofessional behaviour of the players and team officials.

“Bad energy, buddies like the environment and not to mention night outs, cigarette smokes and more, all during camping.”

And when he ran what he said was ‘a culture of no respect’ by his father Irfaz Mohammed, who took it up with Mohammed Yusuf, the CEO, Mustafa was targeted for going against the grain.

“People and football fans need to know the truth, and this is why Mustafa was made to suffer, targeted for being a snitch,” said Ifraz Mohammed.

“It is said that truth hurts, but in this case my son was inflicted mental torture of being a health scratch.

“All the sacrifices amount to nothing. And this is FFA for players who love to represent their roots.”

Mohammed said one would think that the FFA would have heed to the observations and become proactive but decided to water it down.

FIFA funding

With FIFA’s financial grant last year alone surpassing over 6 millions, FFA could hire the best of best coach who would transform the sport for the good of the game.

But they choose not to, and for reasons only known to the higher up.

FFA has the biggest turnover of national team head coaches in the Oceania region.

And yet not a single one of them  helped the sport in the last three decades.

It is hard to believe with the allocated funds the sport is struggling for development, standard and lacks competitive edge.

Call for government to step in

Former footballers and fans have criticized the FFA, for its development and training of the national teams.

Who feels the time is right for the ministry of sports, a branch of the country's government, to investigate the sport's national governing body about the failures of the national teams.

The consensus is the millions in Fifa financial grant and through major sponsorships, FFA has failed to identify, develop and train footballers in age groups or with senior men’s teams.

Even if it means FIFA bans the country from playing in international events, so be it as they’re up to no good.

While the sport of rugby is famous for punching above its weight internationally, football remains a minnow in global football, the men’s team sits a low 168 out of the 200 nations in world rankings.

And sadly a low 7th place out of the 11 teams in the Oceania Football Confederation.

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