OUR photographer Baljeet Singh's goal picture in last year's controversial Inter-District Championship final between Suva and Ba laid to rest a lot of doubts.
And to some extent helped in the decision-making — to award Waisake Navunigasau's goal and hand Suva the Lloyd Farebrother Trophy after the match had been abandoned.
That was a historic final for the Whites as they exorcised the demons that had been haunting them for 28 years. Some 33 years ago there was another historic match played at the then National Stadium (now ANZ Stadium) in Suva — Fiji's one and only showdown with Mexico in an international friendly.
On their way back from a tour of Australia and New Zealand, Mexico stopped by to play Fiji in Suva on Saturday, August 31, 1980.
Fiji was having a good year, having already demolished New Zealand 4-0 in the Oceania Nations Cup some six months earlier with two goals each from Meli Vuilabasa (Ba) and Dewan Chand (Tailevu Naitasiri).
The Mexicans were highly favoured to win but the Fijians named a powerful line-up to ensure that it wasn't going to be a walk in the park for the visitors. Chand and Vuilabasa got the call-up in the starting eleven with Savenaca Waqa (goalkeeper, Nadi), Abdul Mannan (Rewa), Abraham Watkins (Nadroga), Inosi Tora (Nadi), Semi Tabaiwalu (Ba), Mohammed Salim (Rewa), Emasi "Barcardi" Koroi (Nadi), Inia Bola (Ba) and Feroz Khan (Ba).
Watkins collided with the opposition goalkeeper early in the game and was roughed up by the Mexicans as tempers flared. Watkins became a marked man and in the 31st minute Mexico's strike ace Ricardo Castro was sent-off for lashing out at the Nadroga player.
Mexico was down a man but the rough stuff continued. Off the ball, Bola and a Mexican hit out at each other but luckily they both got away with a warning.
It was 0-0 at half-time. Lautoka's Karuna Gopalan came on for Chand and Nadi striker Rusiate Waqan replaced Bola.
Gopalan then missed two sitters which could have won the game for Fiji and in the end the 10-man Mexicans overcame Fiji's numerical advantage to win with two late goals, 2-0.
Fiji coach Mani Naicker was full of praise for 18-year-old defender Mannan while Mexican coach Raul Cardenas signalled out Bola and Salim as top performers.
"We missed two sitters but I don't blame the boys. The Mexicans played well and deserved to win," Naicker said.
But the talking point of the game was when in the first half, Chand looked to have headed home a clear goal and put Fiji 1-0 up only for the match officials to disallow the goal as somehow the ball ended up on the outside of the net.
However, The Fiji Times photographer Anne Livingston snapped the perfect shot showing the ball going into the goal. I liked the caption which read "Does the camera lie?". That's the story of the goal that was never given on a day we could have beaten now the 24th world ranked Mexicans in the only international we have played them. Beaten but not humiliated by a 2-0 score line. I wonder what the scoreboard would read if we played them now, 33 years on? Enough said.