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Fiji, poor learners of football game

Opinions / Analysis

FOOTBALL is realizing where you were and where you needed to be.

The sport is all about learning to be better than before.

Given where the sport is in Fiji, it is fair to say the sports' governance is learning shy.

And with this attitude, national teams will never make it anywhere in the real footballing world.

Look no further than the Fiji- U20s Argentina campaign, it sure draws criticism from every spectrum of football known how’s.

Hard questions

The hard question is what did the country learn after its disappointing 2015 FIFA-U20 campaign in New Zealand.

Artless as they were then, nothing changed since, the top down of the governance failed to understand the field of teams, their strengths, style, and cohesiveness needed to represent.

Fiji got humiliated 8-1 to Germany, 3-0 Uzbekistan and won 3-0 to Honduras.

And 8-years on pitiful performance mirrored itself, setting a new low of three losses, 4-0 against Slovakia, 3-0 to USA, an embarrassing 9-0 demolition to Ecuador.

The team conceded 16 goals and failed to score any.

While the field of matches were against much superior teams, what twitches footballing nerves is the team failed to show up to play.

The team could not get a string of passes, create and play in space, attack and defend, it all appears the team took its very Fiji style football for exhibition on the world stage and it didn’t sell.

The results only embarrass those higher ups who always praise the standard of the sport in the country, in reality it is the lack of it.

For worse, former national head coach Flemming Serritslev, who had early hand on the preparations of the team, Ronil Lal, Marika Rodu and Robert Mimms couldn’t put together a competitive team.

Serritslev was up to no good, and for good measures, Lal, Rodu and Mimms are in the very company.

Deschamps, coaches makes players

Didier Deschamps, the 1998 World Cup winner with France and coach of the 2018 World Cup winning team summed up in his memoir,'La victoire et rien d' autre, French version, that coaches make players, players make the game, and the failures of the former to understand the game, fails the team.

“Recognize, strategies and having the understanding of modern football is success, and tactical and technical acumen for sport is championship.”

Deschamps theory cuts FFA’s belief that they had a quality team for the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Juggling coaches

The juggling of coaches had indicated that the FFA knew where they were and with a rotation of army of coaches, all overrated, footballing minds envisaged the disappointment that was only waiting for its moment in time.

During dry runs the team found it hard to win games against makeup teams and clubs and in a haste ahead of the Indonesia tour FFA introduced Argentinian Rudolfo Zapata as the head coach, that with a pomp and pageantry.

Zapata led the team to Indonesia Tour, but it was learnt that Lal had a bone pick against Zapata, after he was relegated as an assistant.

The Argentinian couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that Lal had influence on the players and bad football habits was at the core of performance and that was hard to break.

The former coach didn’t see a competitive environment, adding the players were not totally committed.

Fiji lacks tactical and technical lace

He 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. 

“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”.

Let go

Zapata was deemed unfit for Fiji football standards, or was he?

He was let go and the reason for his dismissal was that the players were not getting along with him and were uncomfortable with his coaching.

Okay, since when players in the country get to make a call on who they can play under, and besides, on likability, how much of a quality football was played under Mimms, Lal and Rodu.

What was on display in Argentina is what Zapata called it, a complete lack of football knowledge on the part of the players.

Former players saw it all, parents speak out

Former U-20 footballer Mustafa Mohammed couldn’t have said it better, “Lal and his staff were playing a preferential card over talent”.

Mustafa’s teammate Oliver Mcfadyn, who dropped out over what his father Jay Mcfadyn claimed was unprofessionalism at all levels, left him miffed.

"Football Academy in Ba, for all intent and purpose is a prison camp next to the actual prison. Oliver spent a lot of time thousands of miles away from poor conditions, eating poor food to what amounted to pretty basic training.

Jay said with huge Fifa funds, football is on a wane, poor understanding of the game, corruption and tactical ineptitude the sport is ruined in the country.

"The excuse of doing your best at world level isn't good enough, you have to excel."

Ifraz Mohammed, Mustafa’s father, echoed similar sentiments.

“What is good for the goose is not always good for the gander,” said Mohammed.

“FFA thinks they are it, not! bad governance who will remain a bunch of losers, football in Fiji is as good as the next bazaar like match, call it standard”.

FFA puts on a brave face amid shame

And with a straight face, the best FFA posted on its social media Facebook, ‘not our day’

Do they ever, better coined as ‘never a day’ in competitive football, and that would surely hit at the heart of training, development and the standard of the sport.

That is, when will Fiji FA learn to be better than before.

For now it is where it needs to be.

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