SPORTS

Life After Sports: Taito Bula Still Going Strong At 53

His speed, uncanny dribbling skills, powerful right footer, aggressive approach and never-say-die attitude was a nightmare to defenders who dared to cross his path.
26 Jun 2020 15:42
Life After Sports: Taito Bula Still Going Strong At 53
From left Taito Bula and Esala Masi with the Lloyd Farebrother Trophy after winning the 1997 IDC.

At the age of 53, Taito Bula is no quitter.

Retired from playing competitive football, the Nailaga, Ba villager is very much involved in the development of the sport at club level.

He continues to coach the Nailaga FC and Ba Legends FC (veteran).

Not only that, Bula continues to be critical of the Ba’s football team’s performance.

Recently, he was very vocal of Ba’s poor performance at the 2020 OFC Champions League.

“I work as a fitter (off-side) at the Fiji Sugar Corporation’s Rarawai Mill,” he told SUNsports.

“I started working at the mill in 1988 and been there ever since.”

Bula was the country’s most feared striker at the height of his football career.

His speed, uncanny dribbling skills, powerful right footer, aggressive approach and never-say-die attitude was a nightmare to defenders who dared to cross his path.

Bula could easily made it to any professional clubs in Australia or New Zealand, but that opportunity was rare in those days and sadly he had to miss out.

Although it pained him that he could not further his football career overseas, it has somewhat inspired him to help make things happen for many of our young talented footballers.

“I’ve always called on Fiji FA to bring more scouts from overseas so that our players can be marketable overseas, just like Roy Krishna,” he said.

“We need them to watch our three big local tournaments, otherwise it would be just a mere formality.”

Early days

Bula said he grew up knowing that there was no other district in the country that was crazy about football than Ba.

“That’s history now. Ba has produced talented players and the onus is now on the current generation to follow the queue but things have changed over the years,” he said.

He attended Ratu Rusiate Nabuta Memorial School before moving to Ba Methodist High School.

But for Bula, it was at Kamil Muslim College that he discovered his passion to play football.

“I started playing for the village club, Nailaga FC, which was founded by  former Ba and national team star striker Akuila Rova,” Bula recalled.

He made his debut for Ba in 1989 after coming in as a substitute in a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Nadroga during a National Football League match.

Bula’s scoring prowess was first identified while he was playing for the Ba Youth side in 1987.

Moving up the ladder to the senior side, he found himself playing alongside some of the country’s football greats like Ravuama Madigi, Rova, brothers Lote and Meli Delai, Shiu Sami and Afroz Ali. “Certainly, it was a big thing when you played for Ba in those days. We gave everything during training,” he said.

“I started playing at right link and when Reginald Doughty and Afroz Ali retired then I moved up to the striker’s position.

“We were not paid in those days, but it was the greatest feeling. When we played, we felt that the people of Ba rallied behind us. “We made transport arrangements at our own cost to attend training.

“After the match fans would come to me to buy my full playing kit (jersey, shorts and socks) for $100, trust me it was big money then.

“District pride was everywhere- fans, players and officials.”

Best moments

Bula was a member of the national football team that created, history by winning its first South Pacific Games gold medal in Lae, Papua New Guinea. The national side was coached by the late Billy Singh and captained by goalkeeper Tagi Vonolagi.

“This was a moment I’ll always cherish because I scored the winning goal in our 2-1 win over New Caledonia in the semifinal,” Bula said.

“We were losing 1-0. Nawalu (Radike) scored the equaliser. We went for the kill as we wanted to qualify for the final.

“Then a through pass came from Rova to Abraham Watkins who tapped on to Nawalu and then to me to slot is past the goalkeeper.”

Painful experience

Losing the Inter-District Championship title- Lloyd Farebrother Trophy, is one of the most painful experiences, especially if you are playing for Ba.

“I’ve experienced that in the early 1990s when we lost to Nadi at Govind Park,” he said.

“We were expecting a penalty shootout, but defender Nasema (Valerio) handled the ball inside the box and Nadi scored from the penalty to march on while we bowed out in agony.

“It was my worst memory. We lost in front of our fans. That day when I saw the reaction of the fans I made up my mind that I will not play that long for Ba.”

After 10 years of playing for Ba, Bula moved to Lautoka along with goalkeeper Iosefo Vosaboto and Jope Namawa. He played for the Blues for one season before retiring.

Family

Bula is married to Joana and they have five children.

One of their sons Luke Savu is now playing for Nasinu in the Vodafone Premier League.

Edited by Leone Cabenatabua

Feedback:   waisean@fijisun.com.fj



5SQRS Clearance


Fiji Sun Instagram
Subscribe-to-Newspaper