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Tricky Season Ahead For Ba After Dismal OFC Exit

It was a performance that rolled back the memories for Ba Foot­ball Club. A Samuela Nabenia treble and a goal by Narend Rao helped the Westerners ease past Tupapa Maraerenga
21 Feb 2018 11:00
Tricky Season Ahead For Ba After Dismal OFC Exit

It was a performance that rolled back the memories for Ba Foot­ball Club. A Samuela Nabenia treble and a goal by Narend Rao helped the Westerners ease past Tupapa Maraerenga of Cook Is­lands 4-1. The build-up to Rao’s tap in was particularly eye-catching.

The win not only earned them three points, but also ensured they avoid the humiliation of finishing the tournament without scoring a goal. While the win at Korman Stadium in Port Vila, Vanuatu was a reminder of what this talented group of players is capable of, it came at a time when Ba was all but eliminated from the competition.

In his first Oceania Football Con­federations Champions League coaching assignment, Ronil Kumar could not deliver.

“I told the boys that this is not the end of the world but to give their best and try to make it to the next championship,” Kumar said after recording their first win.

He is right. Beating a lowly-rated team from Cook Islands is not the end of the world; but his team’s performances in earlier games en­sured their stay in Vanuatu ended fairly quickly.

A feeble attempt against home side Nalkutan FC ended in defeat. Next, they suffered loss at the hands of Papua New Guinea’s Lae City Dwellers.

As a player, there were a rare few who could contend with Kumar in midfield.

The trouble began when he took up a coaching role with Ba last sea­son. Under Kumar, Ba has failed to win a single trophy. The team was denied crucial match time leading up to the OFC Champions League by the stop-start nature of our na­tional league.

The league was suspended on January 17 to facilitate the player transfer window, which was anoth­er in a spate of confusing decisions made at the Fiji Football Associa­tion. Losses, to some extent, can be forgiven; but successive poor per­formances cannot and Kumar has some questions to answer.

Does his cautious approach in tough games need to change? Can he attract high-profile signings at Ba? Will Ba’s traditional style of possession-based football ever re­turn under him?

The results hint at problems off the pitch– for which Kumar must take full responsibility.

A tricky season lies ahead for the team. They lost their round one fixture 3-1 to Nadi in January and return to Fiji off the back of a de­moralising exit from a tournament held in high regard in the region. Can Kumar overturn his fortunes in time to steer the team back from this slump or is it time to change the ship’s captain?

-Edited by Anasilini Ratuva

Feedback: sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

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