So much had happened since the first Inter-District Championship in 1939. The original airstrips at Nadi, now Nadi International Airport, were built a year later then completed in 1940 by British Colonial authorities with the first tarmac runway constructed in 1946.
Fast forward to August 1969. Lautoka was ruling Fiji football with Ba, Suva and Rewa chipping in with their share of victories. The Men in Black were chasing a fourth consecutive IDC crown. No sign of Nadi though with the side having lost six previous finals.
The IDC had been hosted by Suva, Rewa, Lautoka, Ba, Nadi and even Levuka (1943). Then it was decided that the 1969 championship would be held in Labasa. Top flight football was coming to the North for the first time.
The first round of games saw Ba play Labasa, Nadi against Rewa, Suva versus Sigatoka and Lautoka against Rakiraki. It was knockout 60-minute football with the winners going through to the semi-finals.
The Suva-Sigatoka and Ba-Labasa games were interesting. John Krishna "Chotka" and Krishna Chetty were the key players for the Whites as they led 4-1 but Sigatoka fought back to make Suva sweat in the end as it ended 4-3. Ba and Labasa played out a 0-0 draw after extra-time on Saturday August 2, 1969. There was a replay called at nine the next morning. This time reigning champions Ba, with the likes of the late Esala Masi Sr and Waisea Naicovu, came out on top winning 3-0. Masi scored a double with Naicovu, whose son Esala Masi Jr went on to play professional football in the late 90s, netted one. In other games Lautoka beat Rakiraki 4-0 and Nadi beat Rewa 3-0 in one-sided encounters.
Ba was up against Nadi in one semi-final and Suva took on Lautoka in the other. The Lutumailagi name is famous in rugby and football, especially in Nadi. It goes way back to those days.
It took Joeli Lutumailagi to deny Ba a fourth straight IDC final appearance. His second half header for the late Mani Naicker-skippered side saw Nadi shock Ba 1-0.
Tiredness and the brilliance of Nadi goalkeeper Naicker, who would later go on to coach Nadi and the Fiji team, got the better of Ba. The Men in Black were playing their third one-hour game inside 24 hours.
While one Mani was playing the stopping game for Nadi, another Mani proved to be the hit-man in the second semi-final. Ratu Kaliappan had given Lautoka the lead in the first half against Suva.
Krishna Chetty, originally from Lautoka, equalised from a free-kick for the Whites following some good play by the late Pio Cavuilati. It was 1-all at half-time and Vijay Mani found the winner for Suva in the second spell. It was hand-ball against Lautoka in the box and up strode Mani to smash home the spot-kick. Suva won 2-1 to set up a grand final against Nadi, the first on Vanua Levu.
The first half of the grand final was all about Suva and Naicker. The Whites were in rampant form, dominating possession and raiding the opposition goalmouth. However, they found Nadi keeper Naicker in fine form and could not put one past him.
There was a barrage of Suva attacks with the late Lenny Valentine, Victor Koya, 'Chotka', Chetty and Cavuilati, all big names in local football back then, starring in attack. Nadi came back firing in the second half with a fight-back that stunned Suva. They had the ball in the Whites net but the goal was disallowed.
Finally, despite all of Suva's first half dominance, the winner was scored by Nadi in the final quarter of the game. Centre forward Yunus Khan shot straight at Suva goalkeeper Alfred Selwyn. The ball rebounded off him and there was Rasul Dean to ensure Naicker and Nadi lifted the coveted Lloyd Farebrother Trophy for the first time.
A few weeks after the first humans (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin) had landed on the moon through spaceflight Apollo 11, Nadi football fans themselves were on cloud nine!