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Has The Ba Of Old Returned?

Has The Ba Of Old Returned?
4R Electrical Ba football players with striker Saula Waqa (left) during the celebration at Khalsa College in Ba on August 4, 2018. Photo: Yogesh Chandra
August 06
10:28 2018

ANALYSIS: It took Ba nearly 120 minutes to win the 2018 Inkk Mobile Battle of the Giants tournament, its first domestic title in nearly two years.

The victory at Lautoka’s Churchill Park brought jubilation to the team’s fans– so much jubilation that the poor results of past couple of seasons had been momentarily forgotten.

Yet the return of a trophy to Govind Park has brought a different mood, with the most-asked question being: Is the Ba of old back?

Before this win, Ba, under inexperienced coach– but accomplished player– Ronil Kumar, was unrecognisable to the champion teams it had fielded in the past.

The team’s refusal to acquire talents in the transfer market, coupled with its apparent reluctance to give its youths a chance began to anger the team’s supporters.

Accusations surfaced against the team’s management for not having a succession plan, despite the abundant pool of talent available in Ba.

When Ba failed to qualify for the knockout stages of the 2018 Vodafone Fiji FACT, there were calls for Kumar’s removal and for long-time president Rishi Kumar to leave.

But all that changed at Churchill Park, as Ba, despite a hiccup against home team Lautoka, bulldozed their way to the title scoring 12 goals in the process. And they were good goals too.

An under pressure Kumar had finally found the winning formula, securing his first trophy as a coach

The team played with renewed confidence at the tournament, in a set-up that saw its younger players given more prominent roles.

Moving Avinesh Suwamy to the centre of a three- man defence, and giving Narendra Rao defensive duties to free up Malakai Tiwa were shrewd tactical shifts. Those subtle tweaks probably won Ba the tournament.

It also helped that a rested Samuela Nabenia returned from suspension to feature and score for Ba in both the semis and the final.

Gurjit Singh’s Suva watched Ba decimate Nadi in the semi-finals, following their narrow 1-0 defeat of Labasa.

Plenty began predicting a similar romp in the final, with nobody giving the capital city side a chance.

But Suva held their own- forcing Ba, who had expected an open affair, to change tactics mid-game.

Suva suffocated Ba, choosing to defend instead of committing players forward and offering the westerners opportunities to carve up its defence.

Singh was comfortable with defending and soaking up pressure, knowing his team was too tired and fatigued to match Ba toe-to-toe.

His plan was working wonderfully until Kini Madigi crossed for nippy Abbu Zahid who hoodwinked the Suva defenders to score Ba’s first goal.

Not long after did Nabenia strike, converting a quick counter attack as Suva piled men forward searching an equaliser.

In Singh, many Ba fans saw a successor to Kumar.

Given Singh’s experience at the top level, it made sense to replace a younger coach to save what seemed like a fast sinking ship.

But the former national midfielder has repaid the faith Ba’s management put in him, inspiring the type of performance that will win him approval points.

His next challenge is to maintain the standard seen during July’s B.O.G.

Was this a one off? Or is Ba truly back? Only time will tell.

 

       Edited by Leone Cabenatabua

Feedback:  sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

 

 

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