Homage to a great son of Ba Soccer

I am honoured to pay homage to Farouk Janeman, the legend of soccer, who passed away in Fiji on September 27, 2013

I am also honoured to belong to his family. He was my first cousin (our mothers were sisters).

Unusual remorse

Just a week before his death, Janeman 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. There was no occasion in the past when he had even mentioned 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 was not able to fulfil his father’s dream. He was emotional and I found it strange. He kept thanking me for forcing him to send his son Arafat to study in New Zealand.

That night was special. I have had discussions with my cousin on many occasions and never heard him being regretful, discussing the trials and tribulations that he had experienced in his life. It seemed that although he had contributed to every record book in football, he was sad that he did not fulfil his father’s dream.

Farouk was born to Mohammed Ahmed Bhamji and Amina Bhamji in 1953 and raised in Varadoli Ba, where his maternal grandparents resided. ‘Ba Khatri Hall,’ now patronised by so many people, was his home, located next to the residence of Jan Ali. It is a coincidence that the body of Farouk is buried next to Jan Ali at the Yalalevu cemetery.

The nickname

How he acquired his nickname of ‘Janeman,’ although he terrorised many a defender and goalkeeper in Soccer is in itself an interesting story.

‘Zalim Jadugar,’ a Hindi film released in 1960 was very popular among Indo-Fijians and Farouk’s family was no exception. His aunties would tease him, linking to a character in the film.

This went on for long, until Ahmed Mama (now residing in Canada) intervened and said, “Farouk is my ‘Janeman,’ and hence stop teasing him.”

Janeman and his maternal grandfather Ismail Bhamji died of pneumonia.

He grew up to be a maverick and a free thinker and free spirited person. I remember him going to Natabua High School, the top school in Fiji at that time, in the footsteps of our mama Musa Ismail, who was President of British Columbia Muslim Association). They were both at Natabua High School. Musa Mama represented the School in Football and later played for Ba.

Soccer puncher

His nephew followed his footsteps, representing Natabua and Ba. They both had stints playing for Khalsa High. Janeman, who was in demand as a high school football star, also represented Xavier College.

I was lucky to have seen every game that Ba won for six consecutive years.

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 Mohammed Ali with the arrogance but with the ability to deliver. He failed to score as many goals as he had predicted but got the lone goal that mattered against Suva in the final. After the final whistle, he was mobbed by Ba fans. He acknowledged his family that had gathered to watch him play.

My fondest memory of Janeman relates to the time (in 1978) when Ba, on the way 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.

Locked in embrace

Labasa had scored very early on a slippery Churchill Park and Ba’s hopes of breaking the record looked very dismal. With minutes to go, Janeman found space on the Mosque side of the Park and curled the ball over Brian Simmons’ outstretched hands. Pandemonium broke and Archie Campbell got off his wheelchair, jumped over the parameter fence and limped to Janeman in the field to embrace him.

For his actions that day, Campbell deserves to be honoured amongst Ba’s football greats. I believe that his embrace was the single best moment of the six-in-a-row fairy tale

As a market vendor on the Monday after the funeral said, “We have lost the ‘shaan’ (pride) of Ba. He made poor people like me very happy with his exploits for Ba.”

Iliyas Daud is the doyen of Veteran Soccer, with the annual tournament gathering global strength year after year. Like many of our friends and associates, he is a pride of Ba, the ‘soccer crazy town of Fiji.’

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