SPORTS

Naraba Grateful For Lions Opportunity

Naraba’s combination with fellow former Nasinu teammate, Marlon Tahioa, had them on attack from the first minute.
23 Feb 2021 11:06
Naraba Grateful For Lions Opportunity
Jone Naraba (right) drives possession away from Suva’s Filipe Baravilala during the Pillay Garments Champion versus Champion series at ANZ Stadium, Suva, on February 222, 2021.Photo: Leon Lord

Jone Rupeni Naraba who has been playing the last decade for Nasinu has never played in the final of the 29-year-old Champion versus Champion series sponsored by Pillay Garments.

Labasa’s win on Sunday was special for it is was not only his first CvC outing but also the first time for the Labasa striker represent his home side.

Labasa striker, Naraba helped Babasiga Lions defeat Suva, 2-1 at the ANZ Stadium.

The victory was the Powerwise Electrical (NZ)/Standard Hire sponsored Labasa team‘s back to back win.

Naraba’s combination with fellow former Nasinu teammate, Marlon Tahioa, had them on attack from the first minute.

The 28-year-old Lami High School teacher said it was an honour to be part of the Labasa team this year after spending about more than a decade with the Nasinu side.

“First of all, I would like to thank the Lord Almighty for His guidance and blessing,” he said.

“I am overwhelmed and excited to be part of this Labasa side, on a full debut winning the CvC.

“And playing alongside my striking partner from Nasinu, Marlon Tahioa, it is really exciting.

“The combination is still there and the link and understanding between me and Marlon.”

Naraba, a former Suva Grammar athlete, was one of Nasinu’s senior and a regular match-11.

Transfer

And he was grateful to Labasa president, Rayaz Khan, for giving him a chance to wear the white and red jersey.

He is also the cousin of defender, Akeimi Ralulu. Their fathers are brothers from Yaqaga, Lekutu, Bua.

“It was not in my dream or my plan to play for Labasa.

“The president, Rayaz Khan, approached me to play for the Babasiga Lions team and I’m glad and thankful to the official especially Mr Khan for having faith in me and believing me to fill in the shoes of some experienced players

“And I’m glad the outcome was good,” he added.

“Even though there were some silly mistakes during the game, but with the guidance and the leadership quality that we have in this team we made it.

He added that there was a high caliber in the team with experienced players, who are motivational towards the game.

“And I’m happy to be playing along with my cousin brother, Ralulu.

“It feels good and I’m humbled to be playing alongside some of the experienced players, especially Taniela Waqa.

“Waqa really motivates me a lot. Switching from one district to another was really hard but with his words of encouragement and motivation, I am able to play at the best of my ability,” Naraba said.

Hope

The Lions fought on until the last whistle to win their fifth CvC title for those who were affected by Tropical Cyclone Yasa and TC Ana.

“We were playing with our hearts out, we knew everything from the first whistle.

“As we have known that the homes in Labasa and in our villages were badly affected by Tropical Cyclone Yasa and Ana.

“And this win is for them. I hope this will give them hope that we can rebuild our lives even though certain circumstances which really demoralises us,” he said.

Naraba returned from his grandmother’s village in Bua before school started this year, where he was helping rebuild their house which was affected by TC Yasa.

“Looking at the scenario back in the village, it really hurts inside looking at what they are going through.

“I want to dedicate this win to my grandmother, Aritema Ravato snr.

“Even though she is blind, she is motivates me and encouraged me that nothing is possible in life.

“Its either you let go or you keep it with you,” he said.

“But nothing beats hard work. I’m blessed and fortunate to be playing with this set of boys. They are talented, hardworking and are really helpful.”

Support

And for every football player, the support system is always a major boost of their performance.

Naraba acknowledged Lami High Sschool staff, his family and friends.

“I would like to thank the principal of Lami High School and the teachers, they have been encouraging me and supportive.

“And I’m grateful for what they have done, they always cheer for me, most of the time when I’m out at tournaments.

“I’m thankful to Mr James Faiyaz, for his continuous words of encouragement and motivation towards my football career.

“And I would also like to thank my parents for their continuous support and not forgetting my wife and my daughter, Senimili (Boomy) for their support during the CvC series leg. They have been the backbone of my football career.”

Ba has won the undisputed champion title 19 times from 1993 to 2006, held on to the title from 13 straight years before Labasa wrestled it away in 2007.

The Sunday win saw Labasa engraving their name on the silverware for the fifth time to be second to Ba in terms of winning the tile.

Neighbours Lautoka and Nadi have walked away with the title two apiece while Rewa winning once.

Edited by Karalaini Waqanidrola

Feedback: sereana.salalo@fijisun.com.fj


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