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Exciting times for soccer teams

Rashneel Kumar
Thursday, April 03, 2014

THERE are exciting times to come for two of Fiji's best football teams.

Ba and Nadi are our hopes in the Oceania Football Confederation Champions League competition which starts on Monday next week at Govind Park.

Lautoka's Churchill Park will also host the games.

Nadi is placed in Group B with Amicale FC (Vanuatu), AS Dragon (Tahiti) and Auckland City (New Zealand) while Ba heads Group C with Hekari United (PNG), AS Magenta (New Caledonia) and Tafea FC (Vanuatu).

Group A has AS Pirae (Tahiti), Kiwi FC (Samoa), Solomon Warriors (Solomon Islands) and Waitakere United (New Zealand).

Since 2007, the Men in Black have featured in the regional event five times.

Ba also played in 2005 when the competition was called the Oceania Club Championship in which Nadi also participated in 1999.

A win in this competition will guarantee a place in the FIFA World Club Championship.

Given Ba's experience in the competition, the side is without doubt Fiji's best chance in the OFC Champions League.

The team came close in 2007 where they finished runner-up losing to Waitakere United while last year, the Yogendra Dutt-coached side lost in the semi-finals.

Ba will have the services of local players with a lot of experience in the game.

Players like Avinesh Waran Suwamy, Ronil Kumar, Meli Codro, Malakai Kanihewe, Jone Vesikula, Kiniviliame Naika and Osea Vakatalesau have previously featured in the OFC Champions League.

Ba has also included former reps Peni Finau, Leone Vurukania, Ronald Lawrence, Maciu Dunadamu and Shameel Rao to add depth to the side.

There are latest sensations like Laisenia Raura, Mavileko Nakama, Marika Madigi, Josefata Neibuli, Abbu Zahid, Remueru Tekiata and Naren Rao who have done well in the past season.

Goalkeeping is one area that looks exposed at the moment but let's hope Jone Sorolo gets to his usual best.

Ba's biggest threat in the group stage is PNG's Hekari United, which has already played in the FIFA World Cup.

Nadi really is the underdog in this competition.

The side almost made it to the world stage but lost in the final of the 1999 Oceania Club Championship.

After more than a decade the side has qualified again and with a promising squad the Jetsetters have a good chance of making the final stages.

Nadi's toughest opponent in the preliminary rounds of competition will be defending champions Auckland City.

Coach Kamal Swamy has a good striking combination in Rusiate Matarerega, Napolioni Qasevakatini, Samuela Drudru and William Valentine while defence is well marshaled by goalkeeper Beniamino Matainaqara.

Will they, yes they can!

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