VETERAN football administrator Hari Raj Naicker is inspired to continue serving the nation in the job he loves doing the most.
Naicker, who has been part of the development of soccer in Fiji and the region since the 1960s, was accorded the prestigious Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Order of Merit award in Budapest, Hungary in May this year for his achievements as football administrator.
FIFA said Naicker had been "invaluable to football in his native Fiji, as both a player and football administrator".
"FIFA thanks Hari Raj Naicker for his tireless commitment to our sport and is proud to present him with the FIFA Order of Merit," FIFA said. Naicker, 70, humbly accepted the award and said it would not have been possible without the support of his family.
He thanked Fiji Football Association, the Oceania Football Confederation and FIFA for recognising his contribution towards the development of the sport in the region.
"The whole idea was not so much to get this award but having served for 54 years as a player, referee, and administrator and also coach, I'm grateful to Fiji FA, the OFC and FIFA for giving me this highest award."
Naicker played goalkeeper in his early days in Labasa before taking up the whistle in the late 60s. In refereeing, the former school teacher enjoyed an illustrious career, which included selection as FIFA referee for a record number of years from 1975 to 1991.
He conducted refereeing courses for over a decade and served as a referee assessor for FIFA play-offs and OFC tournaments.
In between match official duties, he managed various national sides, including the Australian men's under-17, the Fiji U20, the Tahiti beach soccer team, the Australian and Vanuatu futsal teams and the Tongan women's team.
He became the chairman of the Fiji FA finance committee in 1973 and has been a key figure on national bodies such as referee's committee, women's football committee and OFC technical committee.
In 2001, he was elected vice-president of the Fiji FA and served in this position for two terms.
"The idea of this publicity is to inspire young people to join the fraternity so soccer advances in the country," Naicker said.
"I'm willing to continue with Fiji FA should my services be required and ready to help in any sort of soccer development in the country."