Ba proved that it is invincible as a soccer playing city, winning the first Apna Fiji Soccer Cup 2011 at a highly charged final against archrival Lautoka, held at the Centre Park Stadium in Managere on February 20.
It was a win with just a few minutes to spare. The team also took home the Late Shah Memorial Trophy donated by Sahil Shah in memory of his father.
It was the first time that the two Fiji Districts were pitched against each other in New Zealand. The Ba juggernaut started to roll even as the game was warming up, while Lautoka appeared apathetic.
Ba scored its first goal to the delight of the members of the Ba Fan Club.
A dispirited Lautoka lost its ace striker and tournament goal boot winner Valerio Nawatu through a red card.
The inaugural tournament attracted Fiji’s major Soccer Districts of Ba, Lautoka, Nadi and Suva to play against the NZ Fiji AFC teams and affiliates.
Mangere Centre Park Sports Association President Mohammed Imran said the event was held to mark the opening of the new Stadium, accord Fiji District players overseas exposure and assist Fiji FA to develop grass root programmes within districts.
New Zealand was well represented in the five-day Tournament with the participation of Wellington and Hamilton teams. Hamilton demolished the NZ Nasinu side while Wellington drew the match against Nadi Fiji.
Auckland based teams of Rewa, Lautoka and Tavua showed their capability to match the Fiji teams. Rewa held Ba to a goalless draw, NZ Lautoka beat Suva Fiji, Tavua held Nadi to a goalless draw and dumped NZ Suva 3-0 to qualify for the semis for a historical match up against Ba from Fiji.
Lautoka and Ba, the two favourites, first met in an electric atmosphere on February 19 Friday night, drew the game, and qualified for semi-finals.
In the first semi-final, Lautoka dumped a lucky Nadi, which qualified after beating Suva with a lone goal in the last pool game. NZ Tavua must still be wondering how it let a 2-0 lead over Fiji Giants Ba slip and for Ba to eventually win 3-2. Although losing the match, NZ Tavua won the hearts of many Aucklanders with their brave performance.
Fiji FA President Dr Sahu Khan inaugurated the Tournament, with FIFA Vice President David Chung and OFC Secretary Tai Nicholas, in the presence of Labour MP Sio William Sua and community leaders. Local Councillor Alf Filipaina and NZ Fiji AFC Patron Naresh Prasad were among the dignitaries present at the closing function.
Ayaaz Khan, Satyawan Singh, Kiran Chandra, Maritino Nemani, Shafraz Khan, Mohammed Shaheed, James Kado, Sheik Israr and Ilyas Daud were among the Tournament organisers, assisted by NZ Fiji AFC and Mangere United.
The APNA Fiji Cup will be an annual event for affiliated teams and players.
For more information visit www.fijifestival.co.nz
-With reporting by Ayaaz Khan