Italy players celebrate UEFA Euro championship after their 3-2 shootout win against England at Wembley Stadium in England: UFEA

Midway Car Rental

Labasa avenges loss 47 years later

Opinions / Analysis

IT was 47 years in the making. That is how long it took Labasa to beat Lautoka for the Inter District Championship title after the 1973 grand finale loss.

The two teams had never met in a final after the Churchill Park encounter that was before the 20, 000 fans.

The 2-1 victory during the Courts Inter District Championship 2020 at the ANZ Stadium settles an old score and gives Labasa the country’s premier most footballing hardware, the Lloyd Farebrother trophy, back to back.

And while the 73’ loss was in August, two months shy of the country’s 3rd Independence Day, the 2020 win was the crowning moment for the ‘golden era’ footballers as they clinched the title during Fiji’s 50th Independence Day celebrations.

The 73’ hero was dynamo Nur Mohammed ‘Lalla’ who headed in the winner on a Ratu Kallipan cross.

And 47 years on, Ilisoni Lolaivalu and Ratu Anare, much like Lalla, replicated the win with a fine header.

Unlike the 73’ final that was played under heavy underfoot, this year’s final was relatively on a dry pitch with over 9000 fans forming the raucous backdrop, many were flag bearing Lions fans.

The difference, the Labasa of old was without its marquee player and coach, Welshman, Mike Jones who was out injured, and the golden era footballers were at full strength.

The contest was just as thrilling, as it was four decades ago, with both the teams giving their all.

It is said that all good teams are alike; each bad team is bad in its own way.

Labasa head coach Ronil Lal was under immense pressure from the fans to turn around the form after a dismal BOG outing and a string of VPL losses.

After the 1-0, Navua loss in the opening pool game, moving forward, Babasiga Lions structured, playing with a lot of zeal up until the final game.

The back-to-back win also had Lal create history by becoming the first coach to win consecutive 2019-2020 IDC championships.

Lautoka head coach Ravinesh Kumar had not had much success since taking up the job, he had been on the receiving end for most of the criticisms for the team’s failure, worst of it was during the BOG, where the Blues failed to win a single game during the pool rounds.

The most qualified coach in the country had earlier admitted that players were not responding to his coaching, even said the relationship was not working.

The team, though made amend in the IDC, by remaining undefeated in the pool games, and after an emphatic 2-1 semifinal win against Ba, Kumar was optimistic about winning the title.

Captain Zibraaz Sahib’s penalty kick gave the Blues an early lead, Labasa levelled and left it late to score for the championship.

For Kumar, instead of changing the players, he should now think of changing himself, his coaching style maybe for the better.

And Labasa, they have finally shrugged off a 47-year-old omen, in doing so sent hundreds of fans on a celebration frenzy.

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