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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Fiji football like 'old bus joke'

Opinions / Analysis

IT’S like the old bus joke when it comes to Fiji football team.

You rush to get a ride but always miss it because it is broken-down.

It is the same feeling with Fiji team, when it comes to perform they fail to show up.

Former national footballer Mohammed Yusuf said FFA has become a good comic in the public eye.

“Football in Fiji is really like that broken bus, football fans wait for the team perform but they always fail to show up,  it’s the same old story, disappointing end result”.

Yusuf said foreign coaches are not cutting it any longer unlike locals who raised the profile of the sport in the 80s-90s.

“Sashi Mahendra Singh, John Lal,Mani Naicker, Mike Thoman, and Billy Singh have all proved it.

Under them Fiji found it a breeze beating every Island nation and beat Australia (1977- 1988) and New Zealand many times”.

Between 2005-2022, 5 foreign coaches have held the position, with the hope of changing football and bringing out the best in the national team.

Lee Sterrey, Juan Carlos Buzzetti, Frank Farina, Christopher Gamel and now Flemmimg Serritslev, all highly rated made Fijians believe they were the change.

“Overseas coaches have failed in the past and future don’t look bright,” said Yusuf.

“Now we see a lot of book smart coaches who don’t have any idea of the practical game and there lies the problem.”

From Sterrey to Gamel, a good 14 years was wasted on bad coaches and yet the FFA hasn’t learnt a lesson.

Come Serritslev, vetted as they claim, turns out to be a cut of the same fabric, the recent playoffs kick the failure gauge to a new low.

The 2-1, Papua New Guinea loss showed how back football has gone. Fiji had never lost to PNG, since the two teams started playing regional football.

While FFA will argue that progress has been made, one need not look far than the miserable Doha, Qatar, campaign, the Kapuls was where Serritslev coached before Fiji.

Ranked 165, in the FIFA rankings, PNG, schooled the Fijians who was ranked 162, with their brisk and constructive football making the Bula Boys looked beginners.

More of the same was against New Caledonia, but Fiji lucked out 2-1, on a stroke of full-time.

The games did not inject any excitement, without a strategy to say the least.

And against the Oceania prowess New Zealand, who obliterated Fiji 4-0, New Zealand exposed Fiji’s inability to play cohesive football, let alone play simple ball.

No team plays defensive football for 90 minutes, unless that team Fiji, rarely putting any effort taking the game to the All whites’, the far and few yardages were on dump and chase with the hopes to find a miracle goal.

But what struck out to thinking footballers and fans is that the players had no self-confidence to take on New Zealand but to sit back and run the clock.

Noting there was nothing out of the defensive textbook.

They failed to defend as a unit, holding the line in terms of high and low defense, man to man marking and zonal marking, condensing play and doubling up and defensive partnerships.

And besides, Fiji lacked the tactical and technical knowledge of the game, less formation.

Sometimes you must accept the fact that generational talents as the name implies are not born but made and it takes a good coach to identify, train and develop the players.

What was on display at Qatar was the Fijian recreational ‘bazaar’ football, introduced at the venues reserved for the elite nations who will play the ‘beautiful game’ come the footballing showpiece the World Cup.

Fiji’s mediocre performance had irked another former national team footballer, midfield maestro Ivor Evans who called for Serritslev's firing on Fiji Football Association Facebook.

“Cannot get five passes together. Fire the coach."

In the mid-80s and 90s Fiji beat the island nations, and the best of the New Zealand side, record proves it.

Fiji now turns its focus on the Pacific Game and Yusuf cannot wrap his head around the thought that Fiji will win the Gold.

“They cannot beat PNG, find it hard to win over New Caledonia, imagine the Solomon’s and Tahiti, Vanuatu is also not an easy beat.

“Oceania nations have progressed but Fiji”.

Serritslev said during the naming of the team that he had prepared the best team to take part in the Oceania Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup.

“We will never complain about the lack of contribution for preparing this team.”

Let alone complain, at the sum $750,000, the performance of the team was anything but a penny’s worth.

And that is no joke.

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