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Farouk Janeman – Salute to a fallen legend!

September 29
09:59 2013

By RAJENDRA PRASAD in AUCKLAND

(Rajendra Prasad is the former Town Clerk, Ba (1972-1987) and is the author of book, “Tears in Paradise – Suffering and Struggles of Indians in Fiji 1879-2004)

Farouk Janeman has passed away but the legend will endure. Some people live beyond their lives, as the fragrance of their legacy cannot be removed from the collective memory of a place, people or the nation. The small town of Ba in the West of the main island of Viti Levu became the football capital of Fiji and continues to. “Jaane”, as he was affectionately called by his close associates, was the wizard of the game of football in Fiji. He was simply incomparable. He was feared by his adversaries and most teams posted additional players to ensure that Janeman was restrained. Despite such plans, there was no answer to the Janeman magic. If he could not score, he simply created gaps for others to hit the net.
One of the most outstanding traits of Janeman was his unselfishness. Consequently, he inspired teamwork and team spirit, which became the strength of successive Ba teams that adorned the deadly and treasured ‘Black and Black’ uniform. Among the giants like Waisea Naicovu, Jone Nakosia, Esala Masi, Ramendra Narayan, Ratubaka, Ramulo Delai, Josetaki Kurivutu and Mitieli (only surviving member from this group) he was a scrawny figure in the field, lost among those that had indomitable height and size. If these were the traits for selection, Janeman may never have made it into the Ba team. However, he proved one point – it is not the size of the dog that matters but the size of the fight in the dog! His courage, tenacity and naturalness in the field were a joy to watch.
Janeman played his first game as a striker for Ba at Ratu Cakobau Park in Nausori in 1970 when Ba won in the final against Suva. It was a sensational beginning for the debutant, following which the fame of Janeman grew exponentially. In Ba’s successive six year claim of the coveted Inter-District Football Tournament trophy from 1975-1980, Janeman awakened a new vigour and spirit in the people of Ba. They became so strongly anointed with football and the spirit of victory that Ba has become synonymous with football in Fiji. Nothing upsets them, including the coups in Fiji, as much as the loss of their team in any match or tournament. The names of the players are revered in every household and when you strike a conversation in Ba with this football crazy district, it is hard to change the subject. Janeman’s name may be repeated several times, if the conversation is not terminated early and history of his feats is allowed to be probed!
I distinctly remember the era of Ba’s supreme reign as the kings of football in Fiji from 1975-1980. I was town clerk, Ba and after every victory, it became a ritual for me to organise the closure of shops in town and procession of supporters with the Ba team from the town centre to Govind Park on the following day. It was one of the most pleasant and rewarding duties that still brings nostalgic memories. People of all professions, races and ages joined in ecstasy, as streets lined with school children and residents cheered their heroes for bringing glory to their district. Undoubtedly, Janeman always drew the greatest attention and applause
What made him so distinguished, as opposed to others? Janeman was not sheer talent but a player who read the game and strategised moves that engaged and strengthened team work. It was sheer delight not only to see his skills but also to see the agility of his mind and the niftiness of his feet. He headed, kicked, tapped or decoyed the ball with such skill that left the goalkeepers baffled and the spectators on the edges of their seats. Undoubtedly, he was talented but he did not rest on his talents alone. He refined his skills and maintained an edge over others.
I distinctly remember one incident, which I would like to share. In the early 1980s Ba and Nadi were arch rivals. It was the era of Rusiate Waqan who was Nadi’s prized striker and Savenaca who was its most experienced and reliable goalkeeper.  Tussle between Savenaca and Janeman was consistent. It had elements of both seriousness and comedy.  Savenaca had a towering presence and Janeman looked like a toy in front of him. Savenaca had the ball in his hands and rules required that the goalkeeper had to keep bouncing the ball. Janeman stuck to Savenaca, the first bounce was okay but as the attempted second bounce hit the ground, Janeman kicked the ball inside the net. I had never ever seen such a feat since. It was agility and niftiness that has not been equalled. His wizardry was mind-blowing. No doubt he was referred to as the ‘fox’ by the media, as he constantly outfoxed his adversaries.
There was another side to Janeman that endeared others to him. He was a great story teller and indeed, he was always a prized member around the ubiquitous tanoa where thigh-slapping jokes and stories sent people into hysterics. He was kind, compassionate and generous and his heart bled for the poor. He worked at Morris Hedstrom, Ba and, his colleagues claimed that on pay days, some of his poor friends would turn up and he would generously share with what little he earned. His life was an open book and he shared his life generously with those whose misfortune of poverty denied them a table or company with those rich and famous.
Janeman had friends that transgressed race, culture or class. He was visibly uncomfortable with the rich and famous but most at ease with those with whom he could sit on the floor and share their joys and sorrows. This was a measure of a man who lived life to the full. Ba’s famous son leaves a legacy that will be indelibly etched in the history of football in Fiji. Farewell, Jaane! Those victories of Ba team, during the days of its unsurpassed glory (1975-1980), are treasured memories that remain part of our lives. Thank you for sharing your talents, bringing glory to Ba and enriching our lives. I know that there are thousands in Fiji and across the world who share these sentiments. We pray to Almighty God for His mercy and grace. May your soul rest in peace!

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