Soccer focus

Fred Wesley | Tuesday, May 30, 2017
NATIONAL soccer coach Christophe Gamel is slowly attracting attention on the home front.

He may not have arrived with much pomp and ceremony, but he has effectively started to win fans around the country.

He is doing that on the field with a brand of soccer many fans are actually not familiar with when it comes to our domestic competition.

For years we've slowly become accustomed to the kick and chase pattern of soccer.

Defenders would gain possession deep inside their own half and send a pile-driver all the way to the forwards to try and control possession.

And when the goalkeeper got possession, he would power a long kick all the way to the opposition danger zone, hoping his strikers would pounce on the ball and score a goal.

The idea, it seemed, for all intents and purposes, was to get the ball as quickly as possible deep inside the opposition half, and keep fingers crossed that strikers would do the rest of the work.

Sometimes it worked, but most times, it did not.

And standards effectively fell by the wayside.

This is not to say that there weren't top players, because there were.

Teams like Ba and Lautoka, at some point in our soccer history unleashed star players who were effective when it came to controlling play.

How can we ever forget players like the Delai brothers of Lote and Meli, the Sami brothers of Julie and Vimal, Josaia Tubuna, Afroz Ali, Meli Vuilabasa, Epeli Rokoqica, Valerio Nasema, Taito Bula, Arjun Pillay, Josaia Dau, Esala, Osea and Manoa Masi to name a few who played for Ba over the years? You couldn't get past former Lautoka stars like Sam Work, John Monday, Wame Macha Vosuga, Kelemedi Cheetah Vosuga, Kinivuai Buli, Michael Elbourne, Vishwa Nair, Pita Dau, Bakalevu Moceimereke, and Ubendra Choy to name a few. Then there were the stylish players like Ivor Evans, Simon Maradona Peters, Taniela Tuilevuka and Tevita Tukania who turned out for Labasa, and Ramend Dutt who had a stint with Nadroga, and the likes of the Watkins brothers, or Suva's Maretino Nemani.

They all had large followings. They made soccer exciting at a time when there were no live television games of international matches.

Gamel may not be as popular as former national rugby sevens coach Ben Ryan or attracts as much attention as Gareth Baber, but he sure is heading that way.

Whether he becomes a savior for Fiji soccer or not, is besides the point. The important bit is that he has shown passion that is winning fans over.

That can only be good for Fiji soccer.

The revelation that we have international matches lined up is positive and very encouraging. This is what our game needs.

It opens up the doors for youngsters to finally live their dreams, and to reach beyond district level games.

These are certainly interesting times for Fiji soccer. Go Fiji, go.

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