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3-year ban

Rashneel Kumar
Friday, July 04, 2014

IOSEFO Verevou has been suspended from all levels of football for three years by the Fiji Football Association.

The Rewa striker and four other Vodafone Fiji under-20 players — Avneel Kumar (Ba), Waisea Yavala (Ba), Samuela Goro (Lautoka) and Kelvin Naidu (Lautoka) — were found guilty of breaking the team camp in the lead-up to the OFC U20 Championship.

The five are "suspended from all levels of football for a period of 3 years from 28/6/14 and fined a sum of $5000 plus vat" by the Fiji FA board of control.

"The fines are to be paid in full before you are allowed to play football at any level after completion of the 3 years suspension," a Fiji FA statement said.

Rewa Football Association president Nazeel Buksh said "Rewa Football feels this is an unfair and fascist decision by the board of control of Fiji FA."

Former national team goalkeeper Tagi Vonolagi said it was a "harsh" penalty for the budding players who had a promising future on the field.

Fiji FA president Rajesh Patel said the players let the team down and needed to be punished for their actions.

He said the penalty was "not harsh, personal or unfair" given the seriousness of the offence.

The players went to attend a birthday party without the consent of the team management and did not show up to the camp until the next morning.

"The team is going to play for the U20 World Cup qualifications and a week before, you do that (offence). What happens to the other teammates? You're a team and it demoralises them," Patel said.

"And for how long we can tolerate such indiscipline in the sport or in any other sport for that matter.

"Fiji Football for years has been having indiscipline problem and under my board, the board has decided we have to stop this once and for all."

Vonolagi said he had never experienced such punishment for breaking camp in his career.

"My plea to Fiji Football is to accept their apology and get these players back in the team. They are a vital part of the national side and we need their services for the World Cup (U20) next year," the former Nasinu stopper said.

Rewa boss Buksh said they would take the matter to arbitration

"This suspension comes as a surprise to Sefo (Verevou), his family and Rewa Football. Sefo is only 18 years old and has a big soccer career ahead of him," he said.

Buksh said the youngster had apologised to Fiji FA through the media and in person and was sorry for his actions.

He said Verevou was a first time offender adding Rewa Football had also apologised to Fiji FA on his behalf.

"But still Fiji FA has gone ahead to suspend him, a three-year suspension is not acceptable - this will be the first in the history of not only Fiji soccer but in the world that a player is suspended from all levels of football because he has broke camp," Buksh said.

"We will not let some people sitting behind the desk decide the fate of a kid's future - we will not allow Fiji FA to kill Sefo's bright soccer future.

"Sefo has been always a disciplined, hard working footballer who had the will to learn. Everyone deserves a second chance - we don't see why Fiji FA has come out so strong on this young boy."

Patel said Verevou apologised for missing the camp before the New Zealand tour and was given a chance to prove himself.

He said they had not spoilt Verevou's career adding "he has to learn a lesson for what he has done".

"He (Verevou) has been groomed through the under-12 system in Fiji football for years. He has twice been the captain of the U17 team, he should be a leader.

"How many times you accept the apology? There has to be a full stop and action needs to be taken, it's not a harsh action."

Buksh said they had contributed a lot in the development of football in the country.

"He added in future "we will have to think twice before sending any of our youth players to any national team camp".

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