THIRTY years ago, 12,000 fans packed the National Stadium to witness two of Fiji football's heavyweights — Ba and Suva in action.
The stage was set for the Battle of the Giants final. Suva had the likes of Ramu Prasad, Hirdesh Prasad, Tony Kabakoro, Jone Ratu, Aisea Mocelutu, Akuila Ravono, Mukesh Chand and others while Ba had the likes of Semi Tabaiwalu, the late Jone Nakosia, Bale Raniga, Inia Bola, Meli Vuilabasa and Julie Sami.
This was a showdown even the neutrals were looking forward to as eight months earlier Jone Ratu had broken Ba hearts on the same turf.
That was the 1981 IDC final. Ba was leading 1-0 but Ratu equalised with seven minutes to go and later thundered home the winner in extra-time. That ended Ba's six-year hold on the Lloyd Farebrother Trophy.
All eyes were on the two teams. All roads led to Laucala Bay but for the two teams they had more than just the game on their minds.
There were early signs that all was not well when the Ba team bus failed to arrive at the stadium in time for the scheduled kick-off. Fans and officials were left to wait over an hour before the Men in Black made their entry into the Laucala bowl.
Ba and Suva had both earlier raised their concern about the referee Hari Raj Naicker and one of his assistants.
They were not happy with Naicker being given the nod to control the big game. Naicker had earlier got his FIFA badge and in the eyes of the Fiji FA was the right man for the job. Ba had a bone to pick with Naicker as he was the man in charge in the 1979 Ba-Labasa Girmit Tournament final when the match was abandoned and awarded to the northerners.
Suva officials and players were spoken to by the FFA and finally they agreed to play with Naicker in charge.
So some two hours after the match was initially scheduled to start, both teams took the field. It was game time.
Naicker and his assistants walked on, blew the whistle to call the teams together. Suva came but Ba did not. They stayed on the park but were in no mood to play with Naicker in charge. The no-nonsense Naicker waited for 10 minutes and then blew his whistle to signal the end, awarding the match and the 1982 BOG title to Suva.
The poor 12,000 fans were left fuming and frustrated but had no option but to go home without watching the final. Ba had come through with a 1-0 win over Rewa with Inia Bola scoring while Suva edged Lautoka 1-0 with a goal from Hirdesh Prasad.
The Fiji FA put an indefinite ban on Ba and a motion was put before the council to ban Ba from all levels of football for five years.
One of the key man behind the motion was the late JD Maharaj.
The motion was defeated 8-6. Here's what Suva FA president Hari Pal Singh had to say back then: "I am shocked at the decision and attitude of some people in the Fiji FA. It seems to me they do not care about the fans who are the people that keep soccer going in the country".
Maharaj and two other FFA executives resigned because they felt let down by two of their superiors, president Manikam Pillay and Younas Hannif who opted not to vote.
"What the FFA did was to build a platform for teams refusing to play," Maharaj was quoted as saying.
"Who suffered from the fiasco? Not FFA, not Ba, but the money paying fans. I owe my loyalty to the fans . It's them that keep FFA alive and wealthy today. FFA owes everything to the fans and the decision was a betrayal of soccer lovers all over Fiji."
Ba walked away with just a $200 fine. Suva celebrated and just over a year later they got the chance to play Ba in the final, at the 1983 IDC on the same venue. This time Aisea Moclutu was the hero as the Whites won 1-0. So Suva and Ba have a bit of a history, both on and off the field.