Back in history | Yomiuri tours Fiji

Western Combined teams Epeli Raganivatu and Dev Anand prepare for clash with Japanese soccer team Yomiuri. Picture: FILE

In 1985 district teams were formed in preparation for a touring football club from Japan called, Yomiuri. All district teams in the West, East, and North formed three major clubs to face the visitors.

These clubs were called the Westerners, Southerners, and Easterners. The visitors had successfully won the first match of their tour against the Southerners 4-1 and were to take on the Westerners in their second match.

Nadi star striker Rusiate Waqa, is the man to watch as the Westerners prepare for a tough competition. The match, scheduled to be held at Churchill Park in Lautoka, was reported by The Fiji Times on August 21, 1985.

Only two nights ago, Yomiuri had defeated a strong and determined Southerners after a brilliant display of football.

Waqa, a player of tremendous speed and striking ability, had been the reason for Nadi’s success in the local league so far and was considered one of the Westerners star players.

In their last league match, he scored two goals and contributed to the another two as his side gave Ba a 4-0 drubbing in their opponent’s hometown. Nadi was the league leader while Waqa led The Fiji Times Adidas National League Best and Fairest Player Award competition.

Another player, the Westerners were to rely heavily on was Ba’s veteran midfielder Meli Vuilabasa, who contributed immensely to Ba’s first win in their first season that year.

His ball skills and deadly shooting were largely responsible for Ba’s 2-1 win over Nadroga at Lawaqa Park.

Both players had been under the guidance of the national coach Gutendorf, a former west German footballer who had been responsible for many of Fiji’s spectacular performances at past international games.

The two, together with Savenaca Waqa, Abraham Watkins, Kelemedi Vosuga ‘Cheetah’, and Sam Work who were likely to be in the lineup, were in the 1983 South Pacific Games national soccer team coached by Gutendorf.

But it was obvious that the visitors would have the upper-had to their tour because they were coached by Gutendorf himself. Gutendorf had just started coaching the Yomiuri Football Club after retiring from coaching in Fiji.

“I’m very keen to see their performance,” said Gutendorf. Gutendorf said the Westerners would be out to put up a stiffer competition than the Southern side for they have the services of the majority of current national reps.

“This match will be harder, but I think we will win.”

The Western side was being coached by Lautoka coach Mike Thoman while the managers for the side were Ba’s Ahmed Bhamji and Mohammed Sattar of Nadi.

The side spent only two training sessions with each other before game day. Gutendorf said he was going to use the same line-up that played against the Southern team.

“They are injury free and played well. They will be the team today.”

The Yomiuri line-up included three former Brazilian professionals, Libro Jorge Toledo, fullback Ruy Ramos and midfield striker Jorge Yonashiro.

It also had former Manchester United striker Steven Paterson and two current Japanese national reps play-maker Satoshi Tsunami and right-back Yasutaro Matsuki.

These were the players who shone against the Southern team and gave excitement, exhilarating football, and crowd-pleasing goals.

Yomiuri was set to play their third match against a President’s XI side at Ba Sports Stadium after their match with the Westerners.

More Stories