Lautoka’s secret in football arena

Lautoka soccer team officials with players and Lautoka team President Abdul Kadir (sitting left), Fiji FA President Rajesh Patel and Raymond Stoddart during the IDC presentation at Lautoka club. Picture: BALJEET SINGH

SINCE its humble beginning 84 years ago, the Lautoka football team has stamped its mark as one of the best teams in Fiji.

It has won all titles and at the same time unearthed some of Fiji’s finest players.

Recently the side successfully defended the two prestigious titles — the Courts Inter District Championship and the Vodafone Premier League.

The two win has set a platform for the upcoming Pacific Cup, Pillay Garment’s Champion vs Champion and the all-important Oceania Football Championship O’League . Lautoka Football Association president Abdul Kadar attributed the success of the team to teamwork and sheer hard work.

He said his main target was to lift the standard of the game to another level, and to continue the proud tradition of making Lautoka the best team in the business in local football.

Kadar said one of the key elements for Lautoka was to safeguard the welfare of their players, and their families.

“The players’ welfare are well looked after by the association,” said Kadar.

“We not only paid the players based on their performance but we always visited them at their homes and helped them when there are deaths, birthdays and other important family matters.

“The philosophy is clear. We look after them and they will look after us by giving their best for the team to win. We also make sure not to make false promises to the boys because we don’t want to hurt their feelings.

“I believe this has been the main contributing factor to our success likewise to the success of some past Lautoka teams.”

Team formation and past records

According to former president Shalendra Prasad, the association started with only two clubs.

“The first Lautoka side was formed in 1934 by John Bairagi with two teams featuring namely the Indian Sports and Service Sports Club based at Namoli Park,” said Prasad.

“Lautoka was also one of the founding members of the then Fiji Indian Football Association which later became Fiji FA in 1961.

“The side also produced some of the best players and I can vividly remember we ruled the local competition in 1984 and 85 – winning all the trophies in Fiji.”

Prasad said some of the players who featured for the Blues in those years were Kelemedi Vosuga, Pita Dau (late), Nasoni Buli, Niko Lilo, Upendra Choy, Raymond Moti and Sam Work, to name a few.

“This was one of the best achievements of Lautoka football and about 10 players in the side were later named in the national team.”

Prasad said another milestone achievement for the side was when Lautoka thumped arch rival Ba in the 2010 CVC game. Some of the key players who featured in the game were Valerio Nawatu, Peni Finau, Osea Vakatalesau and Jone Vono Jr.

“Labasa and Ba have been dominating the CVC and it took us 17 years to create history after thumping Ba 7-0. We had a good set of players and this same team also won 44 consecutive local games.”

Prasad was the longest serving president — from 2007 to 2013.

Incentives

Current president Kadar said all prizemonies won by the team were usually distributed to the players.

He said these incentives always inspired the players.

“Basically, the boys are paid based on their attendance in training and performance,” said Kadar.

“All the monies are shared among the entire 22, but according to the number of games they played. We need to understand that players who play all the six games will be rewarded more than those on the bench. We need to be faithful to the players.”

Challenges

Financial support is one of the main challenges faced by the team.

Kadar said despite the financial support shown by businesses and individuals, the team still needed more financial backing.

“For the OFC League alone, we need money and without the sponsor, we cannot feature at big tournaments such as the O’League, “The financial backing is the main factor of any organisation and that is how we run the team.  Although we have other sponsors who look after the welfare of the players, we still need more financial assistance to meet our target.

“The only thing to maintain consistency performance is to make our boys happy and give them what they really deserve.”

Fan base

Like all other local teams, Lautoka has a large number of crazy fans and these fans always painted the City Blue with flags and fashion every time the side wins.

Among these fans are the wives and mothers of the players and officials – who proudly called themselves as the Lautoka Ladies Fan Club.

Kadar said the support rendered by their loved ones contributed to the success of the team.

Club president Jasmine Kadar said the objective of their formation was mainly to support and motivate the players.

She said the ladies always fundraised, not only to help finance the team, but to also fund the fans’ travelling expenses to various football grounds around the country.

“We have been doing this for two years and we even accompanied the boys to Labasa,” said Jasmine.

“Win or lose, we will always be there for the boys and we are doing this to inspire our players and most importantly support them in their games and career.”

Upcoming battles

The Blues have three tough battles ahead starting with the Pacific Cup, the Pillay Garments Champion vs Champion series and the Oceania Football League.

Kadar said the ultimate aim was to create history and be the first team to win the O’League.

“We will try to maintain consistency as we are the champion team. We are fortunate to have all the pool games in Fiji, so we need to prepare
very well in front of our home fans.

“I am requesting interested companies to come onboard and support these boys because there are a lot of things to be done.

“We lost in the O’League final last year and have learned a lot of lessons.”

He thanked their current sponsors and the Fiji FA for the huge support.

Kadar also thanks sponsors Techni Kool, Chovan Pharmarcy, The Fan, Design Engineering, Faiyaz of BSP, Island Refrigeration, Hira Lal Investment, KBL, Lautoka Central School, LCC, Shop n Save, Oceania Water Group, Lincon Refrigeration, Singh’s Rental and Lautoka Club.

He also thanked his wife Jasmine for supporting him to carry out his job efficiently.

“I also thank Fiji FA and all those who have contributed to the success of the team.”

Meanwhile, members of the Lautoka team and officials were presented with incentives and gift packs in Lautoka on Friday night for their IDC achievement.

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