A real Janeman he was!

I met the respected Fijian writer Rajendra Prasad and congratulated him on a wonderful tribute paid to my late cousin Farouk Janeman.

Prasad lamented that it was unfortunate he could not pay the same respect to him in person when he was alive. He said it is was an empty tribute because the person he was praising wasn’t there to hear the accolades

That night I reflected on the scribe’s words and felt annoyed in our inability to do just that. Instead of sulking and preventing any thoughts of dismay I thought the next best thing for me to do was to write a tribute to my brother from a family perspective. So here I go – thanks to the inspiration given to me by Prasad.

Farouk Janeman was born to Mohammed Ahmed Bhamji and Amina Bhamji in 1953.

From early childhood he was brought up in Varadoli Ba where his maternal grandparents resided. Farouk’s mum Amina Bhamji was the eldest daughter of Ismail and Kulsum Bhamji. As was the custom those days the eldest daughter’s children virtually grew up in their grandparents home, spoilt by six uncles (Mamas) and six aunties (Khalas).

It is here that the name that would terrorise many a defender and goalkeeper was coined. The story goes somewhat like this. Apparently there was a hit movie in those days called Zalim Jadugar, which was released in 1960. The aunties’ way of entertainment was to tease Farouk with a character from that movie and he would chase them for hours on end. This went on until Ahmed Mama now residing in Canada intervened and said don’t tease him because he is my Janeman. From then on the aunties resorted to Janeman to get the attention of the likeable kid and the name stuck. The most famous name in football in Fiji traced itself to such a simple background. The house was where the Ba Khatri Hall is at present next to the residence of Jan Ali. As a coincidence of fate, Mrs Jan Ali and Farouk Janeman lie side by side at the Yalalevu cemetery. Both Janeman and his maternal grandfather Ismail Bhamji died from Pneumonia.

Janeman grew up to be a maverick in his own right, a free thinker and free spirited. I remember him going to Natabua High School, the top school in Fiji at that time, in the footsteps of our mama Musa Ismail (President of British Columbia Muslim Association). They were both at Natabua High School. Musa Mama went on to represent the school in Football and later on played for Ba. The nephew followed suit and represented Natabua and later Ba. They both had stints playing for Khalsa High and Janeman, who was in demand as a high school football star, also represented Xavier College.

Just a week before Janeman passed away he was in New Zealand attending an OFC course. He asked his son Arafat Bhamji to drop him at the Mangere United clubrooms at Centre Park.

When we met, he uncharacteristically started talking about his past. He never spoke of his past, never ever even mentioning some of the great goals that he had scored. That evening, he told us how his father had sent him to Natabua to become a lawyer. He said that he got into wrong company and wasn’t able to fulfil his father’s dream. He was emotional and I thought this was strange. He kept thanking me for forcing him to send his son Arafat to study in NZ. That night was a special night. I must have sat with my cousin on many, many occasions and never had he spoken of his regrets, trials and tribulations like he did that night. It seemed that although he had contributed to every record book in football he had this regret of not fulfilling his father’s dream. Maybe it was his way of ensuring that the message got to his parents as to how sorry he was for not fulfilling his dream.

I was lucky to have seen every single game of Ba’s six years in a row triumphs. I went with the Ba team to Labasa in 1975. I remember the headlines before the tournament – ‘The brash Janeman claiming Goals, Goals and more Goals’. He was like Muhammed Ali with the arrogance but also with the ability to deliver. He failed to score as many goals as he had predicted but scored the lone goal that mattered against Suva in the final. After the final whistle, he was mobbed by the Ba fans but he took special time to acknowledge the family who had turned out to watch him play. The photo on the daily newspaper the next day had him embracing my father who was a board member of Ba Football Association at that time.

My fondest memory of him was when Ba enroute to creating history by becoming the only team to have won the IDC four years in a row was struggling against a very good Labasa outfit. Labasa had scored very early on a slippery Churchill Park in 1978 and Ba’s hopes of breaking the record looked very dismal. With minutes to go Janeman found space on the mosque side of Churchill Park and curled the ball over Brian Simmons’ outstretched hands. Pandemonium broke and a sight still etched vividly in my memory was one of Archie Campbell – wheelchair bound – managing to get off his wheelchair, jump over the parameter fence and limp to Janeman in the field where they both embraced. For his actions that day Archie Campbell deserves to be honoured amongst Ba’s footballing greats. The Archie Campbell Janeman embrace to me would be the single best moment of the six-in-a-row fairy tale

As the market vendor on the Monday after the funeral said to me: “We have lost the shaan of Ba. He made us poor people very happy with his exploits for Ba. When we had nothing we survived on the joy that the Ba team used to bring to us. We would forget our poverty in the joy that Janeman brought to the people of Ba. He used to make us very, very happy.”

Iliyas Daud’s mother and Janeman’s mother are sisters.

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