Soccer giants clash

Rajnesh Ishwar Lingam, Nadawa, Nasinu | Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Vodafone Fiji Fact kicks off at Ratu Cakobau Park today despite the wet weather. The defending champions, giants Ba, the Babasiga Lions and underdogs Dreketi have been grouped in the "pool of death".

I predict Ba and Labasa to advance to the semi-finals although Nadi is a tournament team and since 2010 has won the Fiji FACT three times. The Jetsetters won the tournament in 2014 in Nausori.

On paper, Labasa looks the team to beat and if the Lions, backed by their loyal supporters here, find their rhythm, then they will be unstoppable. "Ba toh Ba hai" is a hit slogan and the MIB, having last won the Fiji Fact in 2010, should bounce back and deliver something special to take them to the semis.

In Pool B, based on form, Lautoka should top the pool and qualify for the semi-final with Rewa. However, the Capital City, led by hard working coach Nathan Shivam, alongside dark horses Rakiraki should not be underestimated. Lautoka has the soccer brains in Kamal Swamy and experienced and skilful players and Ratu Cakobau Park has been a happy hunting ground for the Blues, having won the BOG last year there defeating Labasa.

I was delighted to read in The Fiji Times (15/5) that the players will be joined by their mothers, wives and fans and led by Jasmine Kadar, the wife of Blues boss Mr Kadar. Bravo to the women who sacrificed their time and effort to fundraise for the trip to Nausori!

Nausori Town will be a hype of festivity and will host fans from the different corners of the soccer loving family. Fans will be dressed in their team colours but expect Ratu Cakobau Park to be draped more in a sea of red, flooded by Labasa and Rewa supporters. Furthermore, stall owners will be hoping for the weather to clear.

The soccer flavour will also bring out the best from the players, officials, referees and commentators. My best wishes to the "Lions", who carry the hopes of the "Friendly North".

As I conclude, I thank the editor-in-chief and his hard working team for striving to give readers news in a fair and accurate manner. The Fiji Times remains the people's newspaper!

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