THE man behind Navua football's sudden revival is a very happy man but revealed yesterday that they could have stunned everyone and lifted the Lloyd Farebrother Trophy if district officials had not erred off the field.
"The players worked very hard on and off the field," said Navua team director Pravin Chand
"Most of them were young boys and we even fielded a 17-year-old against Ba in the semi-final.
"Most of the players donned the Navua jersey in a tournament for the first time but showed lots of guts and spirit.
"We did not have too many choices with player selection as officials had made blunders by not giving the right final 22 names to Fiji FA thus some quality players like Siga Ali were left behind."
Chand, managing director of Fairtrade Auto, was full of praise for his coaching staff.
"Mohammed Safeel, the youth team coach, filled in well as official coach and trainer but our trump card as technical adviser and drawing board coach was a former Navua rep and The Fiji Times sports journalist Manoj Kumar," he said.
"He was the 12th player in the team, barking out orders from the sideline.
"I rank Kumar as one of the best technical coaches in Fiji. He definitely has soccer knowledge both on and off the field and I salute him."
Chand said under his and Kumar's guidance, Navua has won six out of seven games with the only loss coming against Ba in extra-time at the Inter District Championship semi-final at Govind Park.
Navua had earlier won only one game from 16 in the league and had lost six out of seven games in the two previous tournaments (Fiji FACT and BOG) this year.
Chand said despite getting together only three days before the tournament because of issues with district officials, the Navua players did their fans proud.
"I want to thank all the fans for their show of support from here and abroad, also Turaga Tui Namosi Ratu Suliano Matanitobua for his backing and Kolaia Nabaro, Bola and Saten of the Naboro prison complex for their help with technical and fitness work with the team.
"Also former Ba and Fiji rep Teti Vosa, former Navua and Suva rep Temisi Tuwai and Lautoka and Flying Fijians backline coach Viliame Satala, Ramesh Chinna, Bale, Ramulo Kaibau, Praveen's Kava and Rajiv's Service Station for their input."
Chand said Navua's poor performance earlier was because of all import players leaving, a move he termed as "blessing in disguise".
"Also, we have a very young and inexperienced management team without experience, public relation or leadership qualities. They need to put the welfare of players first by getting financial support and the blessing of the people of Navua."
Navua was the surprise team of the tournament and Rajneel Chand was voted player of the day on Thursday.