From right back to goalkeeper and education
20 March, 2018, 12:00 am
It was a clash of choice over preference for Benito Waqavou that has made him what he is today.
The Vodafone national football team goalkeeper preferred to play at the right back position, however he was chosen to guard the goalmouth.
“I wasn’t trained to be a goalkeeper from the grassroots level. I started goalkeeping by choice,” Waqavou said.
Speaking to the Fiji FA Media, Waqavou went on to share how things happened in his life.
The 23-year-old said it was the words of his Rewa youth coach Nigel Khan that made the difference.
“I started playing football in my primary school days at Bailey Memorial School in Rakiraki. When I was in class eight, I suffered a knee injury and the doctors ruled me out of playing for three years.
“After consulting the medical practitioners three years later, I was then given a green light and started playing for Nasinu Muslim College.
“I used to play at right back and right link, but our goalkeeper got injured and I being the tallest in the team was forced by the coaches to play as the goalkeeper. This got me selected in the Rewa youth team.
“In Rewa youth, I was under the guidance of coach Nigel Khan and he told me that I have a future in football and that is to guard the goalmouth,” Waqavou shared.
The Fijian Elections Office administrative assistant got his break in the Rewa district team when goalkeeper Epeli Loaniceva sustained injuries.
“I got transitioned into the main Rewa team in 2012 when our goalkeeper Epeli got injured and we had a game against Suva at the ANZ Stadium.
“I was so scared on my first match as a keeper in the main team and our defender Peniame Drova helped me even tie my laces, but then it was a memorable one because we won.”
By means of qualification, Waqavou holds a bachelor of science degree in agriculture and specialises in plant pathology.
Because of his education, he missed great opportunities where he could have been part of the historic team to FIFA U20 World Cup and Rio Olympics.
“I missed both the youth age group teams to represent my nation. I was given a chance when I was with the under-20 team, but I had to give up because of my form seven exams.
“And again in the under-23 team, I had to miss it because of my university exams as I was completing my bachelor’s degree.
“I always chose education over football and even if I’m still engaged with football, I used to wake up late at night to study in camp after all the players have slept.”
He urged the goalkeepers to be mentally tough.
“You’re the last line of defence and if you’re beaten, the whole team is beaten.
“This has been a phrase that has kept me going.
“The extent to which you achieve success reflects the extent you wish to fight for it.”