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The day Ba reigned

Manoj Kumar
Wednesday, February 13, 2013

THE 1976 Fiji Football Association Inter-District Championship, played on newly-opened Govind Park, was a huge financial success.

The park, now one of the finest football pitches in the country, was officially opened by former Fiji FA president Manikam Pillay in July that year, two weeks before the start of the annual tournament.

A lot of effort went into the construction of the stadium and laying of the pitch and a capacity crowd of 13,500 was expected daily for the four-day meet.

Reigning champions Ba, led by nippy Farouk Janeman, Suva, featuring top stopper John Grey and Rewa, with hit-man Jimmy Okete, were top tips for the Lloyd Farebrother Trophy.

Lowly Sigatoka

Rewa, Suva, Labasa and Nadi were in one pool with Ba, Tailevu Naitasiri, Lautoka and Sigatoka making up the eight-team competition.

Rewa took on Nadi and Lautoka met Sigatoka in the opening round.

At half-time, Rewa and Nadi were tied nil-all but the introduction of coach/player Vilitati Lee turned the tide in Rewa's favour.

Lee, who led the Delta Tigers to the 1972 IDC triumph, set up Feroz Buksh for the opening goal, scored one himself before Okete made it 3-0 at full-time.

Lowly Sigatoka turned on a wonderful performance against Lautoka.

With five minutes left, Sigatoka was leading 2-1 with goals from Nepote Dawadawa and Bobby Ram. But two goals in five minutes from the late Jo Tubuna and the late Gopal Krishna ensured the Blues a last-gasp victory.

Skipper Mike Tuilawa scored Lautoka's first goal.

Unbeaten two

Rewa and Ba came through their pool matches unbeaten with maximum points. Rewa's toughest game was against Suva. The Whites were without key player Mun Lal and went down 1-2 with Okete and Rahmat Ali netting for the Reds.

This result meant that Suva had to settle for second spot ahead of Anand Sami's Labasa and handed a semi-final with Ba.

The Men in Black won the other pool with Tailevu Naitasiri finishing second.

Ba, with a goal from the late Jo Kurivitu, ousted Suva in the semi-final 1-0. Amani Qere providing the assist to Kurivitu, who later went on to coach Ba.

Tailevu Naitasiri gave Rewa a good go in the other play-off and they would have stood a good chance had Saimoni Ratu not squandered four easy opportunities.

Okete netted a double and Rewa won 3-1.

Too good

Ba was simply superb in the final.

Even the experienced Rewa defence, featuring Wate in goal, Sakiusa Rao and Tevita Delana, struggled against the rampant opposition.

On the opposite end, Semi Tabaiwalu, Mitieli Turaganikeli and the late Jone Nakosia kept a tight lid on Okete.

Midfielder Vimlesh Singh stood out in the opening exchanges with intelligent passes and good runs but Qere hitting the Rewa post was the closest either team came to scoring in a scoreless first half.

With all the focus on Janeman, Bobby Sahadat proved the key man for Ba.

He set up Singh for the opener and scored the second himself as Rewa was beaten 2-0 and Ba clinched back-to-back IDC victories on their new Govind Park.

"We knew we were going to win," quipped an elated Janeman.

"We had everything worked out. Rewa could not have possibly won."

Off the field, the Fiji FA cashed in $17,000 with over $30,000 going to the Ba Town Council courtesy of the excellent turnout at the new stadium.

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