The advent of summer not only heralds yet another soccer season in Australia but also witnesses a number of players and teams recognised for their contribution to raising the professional standards of the game.
The Fiji community in Sydney takes great pride in honouring its soccer heroes as the year comes to a close with people preparing for the holiday season, which will invariably include soccer matches.
The foremost among those honoured was the Nalawa Team, which has won every tournament it entered since inception in 2010, until the beginning of this year.
Best Over 40
Sydney Fiji community’s Sports Award is based on the performance of teams in the previous year. In addition to winning back-to-back local league titles and sweeping all the veteran tournament titles in 2011 and 2012, Nalawa established itself as the Best Over 40s Fiji soccer team in Australasia by winning the New Zealand International Veterans Soccer Tournament in both those years.
Nalawa’s biggest achievement to date has been the 2012 NZ International Veterans final, where the team demonstrated sheer determination against Sydney Ba.
The fellow Sydney team had imported the services of former Fiji reps but still lost to Nalawa, comprising just a bunch of good mates playing for each other.
Soccer managers may seek the services of superstar players solely for the purpose of winning. But the Nalawa teammates are living proof that it takes friendship, loyalty, understanding and passion for the game to make a successful team.
Another secret of Nalawa’s success is that its players, supporters and families operate as a social club, not as a soccer team. This has helped in building a stronger bond between the players who share a strong passion for the sport and for winning.
The Best first
The Nalawa dream team has been the envy of many for a number of years and its unbeaten winning record remains unparalleled.
A spokesperson Nalawa said, “A team of champions will always come second best to a champion team, as proven time and again by this great set of boys.”
Senior Manager of the Year
The team played winter Soccer League under the Campbelltown Collegians banner and Nadeni Narayan, a true role model for women in our community, won the Senior Manager of the Year at the Club’s Annual Awards.
This was an achievement for any woman who had to juggle her professional career, care for a family, transport children to their soccer matches, organise trainings for the senior men’s team and be at the match each weekend.
Nalawa sent a strong message to all Over 40s teams in next month’s Veteran’s Tournament, that the team will return stronger and fitter, to reclaim its 2014 title.
Sportsman of the Year
Mahesh Kumar (Raju), who was declared ‘Sportsman of the Year,’ has been playing soccer all his life and during the peak of his soccer career, appeared for a number of senior teams in Sydney.
A sports award to Raju was long overdue.
Raju remains one of the best players in the over 40s category and during Nalawa’s dominance, he proved to be an excellent playmaker with a good sense of direction and understanding of the game.
Young Achiever of the Year
Rajniel Chand, son of Jiten Chand and nephew of popular Auckland soccer personality Bobby Chand, won the Young Achiever of the Year Award for his excellence in youth soccer.
Rajniel played in the state league for Camden Tigers (U/16s) and attended International Soccer Academy (ISA) to develop his skills.
He spent eight days at Bolton Wanderers Soccer Academy in UK under ISA sponsorship. Rajniel trained and participated in the football skills tests with 100 other international youth at the Academy.
This promising young player has been given once-in-a-life-time chance of completing his schooling and playing soccer in UK for 12 months.
Navtarang honoured him with the Award.
Arveen Sharma is the founding member of Auckland Ba (established in 1981) and played soccer for Miramar Rangers and Seatoun clubs in Wellington in the 1980s. He is now Communication and Public Relations Officer of the Australia Fiji Soccer Association based in Canberra.