Football

Recognise Our Local Football Heroes

FOR a long time now, footballers have blessed the fans and neutrals, who to this day yarn about their brilliance. Many, past and present have left their mark on the
24 Feb 2021 13:48
Recognise Our Local Football Heroes
Suva’s Iosefo Verevou (right) defends against Labasa’s Akeimi Ralulu, during the Champion versus Champion series at ANZ Stadium, Suva, on Februaury 21, 2021. Photo: Leon Lord

FOR a long time now, footballers have blessed the fans and neutrals, who to this day yarn about their brilliance.

Many, past and present have left their mark on the beautiful game.

While they gave their all to the districts, represented the country and became much followed stars in their own space, there is not a single award for them like other footballing nations of the world have for their former football stars.

It would be a great tribute to the many marquees to have the awards named after them.

The onus is on the Fiji Football Association to create such awards and to bestow to the recipients during the annual awards night and moving forward with similar awards during all the major tournaments and the premier league.

In the last 80 years of organised soccer, the country has seen a huge turnover of great footballers, some even went on to showcase their talents overseas, making the provincial, territorial, state, and national league teams.

The early footballers, Kini Kawalevu and Amani Pele’ Rokodrea, the 70s stars who played professional football in the National Football League in Australia.

Esala Masi Jnr., after crafting a successful career in the country, played for the Gippsland Falcons and Wollongong Wolves of the National Soccer League in Australia and later with the Victoriannatinal Premier League side and Oakleigh Cannons FC.

Ivor Evans had a 12-year professional career, 10 years of which was with the Vancouver 86s of the Canadian Football League and the North American Soccer League.

 

Roy Krishna

And meanwhile there is the quntessential Roy Krishna, currently playing in the Indian Super League team ATK Mohun Bagan.

Krishna won the Johnny Warren Most Valuable Player Award, after his scintillating performance with the Wellington Phoenix of the A League in New Zealand.

Johnny Warren was the former Australian premier league footballer, captain, and coach of the national team.

Football nations, Spain, Brazil, England, Germany, Argentina, Netherland, America, and Australia all have a tradition of naming awards after their former footballers.

LaLiga’s equivalent of the golden boot is named the ‘Pichichi’, after Rafael ‘Pichichi’ Moreno, a forward.

Telmo Zarra is another player immortalized in Spanish football, the governance decided to name their award for the highest scoring Spanish domestic player of the season after him.

Lionel Messi looks set to join Pichichi and Zarra on that list, as LaLiga chief Javier Tebas revealed that he is considering introducing the Lionel Messi Trophy, which will be awarded to the most valuable player at the end of every season.

Netherlands Johan Cruyff, the legendary footballer has the Super Cup named after him, in the Eredivisie Premier League.

 

Argentina Football

The Argentina Football Association has renamed the Copa De La Liga Professional to Copa Diego Maradona, following the passing of the country’s most decorated footballer in November of 2020.

Landon Donovan, the Major League Soccer sensation, has the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award named after him.

Italy and Brazil have also named its awards after former footballers, Giovanni Ferrari, Italy’s 1934 World Cup winning forward has the Serie A, top goal scorer award named after him and Brazilian Leonidas, the top goal scorer of the tournament has an award named in the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A.

 

FIFA

FIFA, the world football governing body, had the legendary Lev Yashin award, given to the best goalkeeper of the World Cup, between 1994-2006.

The Russian goalkeeper nicknamed ‘Black Panther’ is regarded by many as the greatest goalkeeper in the history of the sport.

Michel Preud’homme, Fabien Barthez, Oliver Kahn, Gianluigi Buffon, Iker Casillas, Manuel Neuer and Thibaut Courtois won the award.

FIFA discontinued the award in 2006, but without a strong recall from countries like England, Germany, France, Russia, and Netherlands.

The other biggest and most recognisable award in football was the FIFA Puskas Award, which was named after global legend Ferenc Puskas and was created more than a decade ago.

The Hungarian, who played for Real Madrid was known to score beautiful goals between 1950-1960.

The accolade is given to the player that scores the best goal in a calendar year and was first presented to former Manchester United superstar Christiano Ronaldo during the 2009 FIFA World Player of the Year Gala in Switzerland.

 

Selection

Fiji FA, should consider naming awards after its footballers who have contributed to the game in the country and have raised the profile of the sport.

The selection should be limited but not selective to the professional few, and no one district should be given priority  as hordes of past footballers have transcended the sport with their greatness.

The homestay heroes, Augustine Thoman, Chandar Bhan Singh, Josaia Tubuna, Waisea Naicova, Zikar Ali, Bale Raniga, Savenace Waqa, George Koi, Abraham Watkins, Anand Sami, Abdul Mannan and Taniela Waqa had it all to play professional football but opportunity and or exposure failed them.

These footballers and others deserve considerations.

And certainly the best way to preserve the memory of those footballing greats who have left their mark on our history is to name awards after them.

Feedback:  leonec@fijisun.com.fj

 

 



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