The Day Koi Beat The Aussies: Grey  

A tribute to their fallen captain
19 Jan 2022 14:06
The Day Koi Beat The Aussies: Grey  

Former Fiji and Suva goalkeeper John Grey laments the passing of his team-mate George Koi who captained the Fijian side that beat Australia 1-0 in Suva in 1977.

The Ex-Fiji Football Reps Association (EFFRA) president recounted that historic day in March 19, 1977 when striker Jimmy Okete scored their lone goal and goalkeeper Vula Wate made spectacular saves to deny the Aussies the equaliser.

Koi and the Legends of 77, had created history in the annals of Fiji Football- for being the first Fijian team to defeat an international team in particular Australia.

Grey said Koi’s legacy would always be- that he captained the makeshift Fijian team that was assembled to play against the Aussies who were on their FIFA World Cup campaign and had requested a warm-up game against Fiji in Suva.

“The team was considered a make-up one, as Fiji’s cream of the crop from the Ba team who had chosen to go on a New Zealand tour, leaving the Fiji FA officials to assemble our team with little hope of success,” Grey recalled.

“Koi, played centre-back, was the captain and camp commander, as the team gathered in an old timber home in McGregor Road, opposite the Peninsula Hotel to prepare for the daunting task of playing the Aussies.

“George’s tall and athletic stature, seniority and experience, gave him the respect and credibility of the position and his team position centered in the defense, allowed him to command and control his peers on and off the field.”

Koi had a hand in many coaching and developmental parts of the game, including playing in Australia and in Lebanon while in the Republic of the Fiji Military Forces.

He played for Flagstaff FC, Suva and Rewa which he later coached and lifted the team to a respectable status.

In 2020, Koi attended several meetings as part of a team that created EFFRA. It was formed to create a vision to assist thirr members welfare and needs.

“To essentially change the way in which we were, as past receivers of adulation and gifts, to being – givers to our brothers – in welfare and support. Essentially – to be our brothers keepers. George leaves a vacuum in our fraternity of the older generation,” Grey said.

Koi, a Fijian of Solomon descent, having family ties to Bau, in Tailevu and Tonga.

He died at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital on Sunday. He was 72.

He is survived by his wife, Venilove Koi, four children, 21 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

He will be accorded a military funeral on Friday, with the church service scheduled for 10am at the Nadera LDS Church before being laid to rest at Lovonilase Cemetery in Suva.



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