The Men In Black side’s success has reached the four corners of Fiji and parts of the World. They are renowned for their back-to-back wins in the domestic circuit and have gone on to carry Fiji’s name in the OFC tournament.
Better known as the Brazilians of Fiji soccer, the Rishi Kumar-led side added yet another title in their bag of historic feat-the coveted Lloyd Farebrother Cup for the 69th Courts Homecentres sponsored Inter-District Championship over the weekend, staging a magnificent comeback to beat Nadi 2-1 at the Post Fiji Stadium.
With the Fiji Bitter FACT cup, Battle of the Giants title as well as the Champions versus Champions title and recently the IDC trophy, Ba proved they were much more than just soccer players, they were the true champions of soccer in Fiji.
But while other teams and the general public pondered the reason behind the winning streak, coach, Yogendra Dutt has owed it to the unity in ther team.
He laughed off claims of black magic being used saying people were just looking for something to talk about and explain their remarkable achievement.
“We have heard of rumors going around saying we performed witchcraft or got someone to do it for us so that we can win,” he said.
“Why should we owe something this remarkable to witchcraft when God should take all the glory.”
Dutt says Ba is a very special team as his players are like a family to him.
“Unity, that’s our secret, we stick together. Nothing can break a bond as strong as that.”
He adds in his 14 years of coaching, he had never come across a team that was so well disciplined and the players well groomed and gelled as a team.
“It’s really amazing, the team officials and players are just simply fantastic and we all share a very special bond amongst us. The welfare of the players is our paramount priority and we always ensure that the boys are happy and focused to deliver the results for the district,” he said after their IDC win.
But not everything was smooth sailing for the champion side gearing up towards the IDC. They copped their fair share of criticisms when they were defeated three times this season by Labasa, Navua and Suva.
The team entered the IDC with a relatively new team. Top goalkeeper, Laisenia Tuba earlier this year copped a suspension. He was also fined for punching a Labasa fan that was later paid by the Ba Football Association. He was expected to be between the posts for the Men In Black during the IDC but pulled out due to family commitments, a wedding ceremony he needed to attend.
Ba’s overseas-based players like Wailotua brothers - Peni Finau and Osea Vakatalesau - along with Waitakere United midfielder, Roneel Kumar and Auckland City’s Shalesh Kumar were unable to obtain leave from work and their respective clubs.
Adding further tension was Ba schoolteacher, Robert Wise who picked up a serious injury to his foot that has ruled him out for the next two years.
Team manageress, Sabrina Khan was no where to be found leading up to the IDC citing other commitments but had promised to be around to assist the team as much as she could. She was replaced by former coach and manager, Semi Tabaiwalu who earlier in the season had coached Rewa.
Labasa took over as the favorites to bag the IDC title after earlier winning the Super Six NEWWORLD Series.
However, the boys from the soccer-crazy Ba town continued to press on and were determined to take the cup back home.
During the tournament there were unjury worries over key player’s, Josaia Bukalidi, Malakai Tiwa and Avinesh Swamy. But, they played their hearts out and featured prominently in all of Ba’s games and help lift the cup and the $15,000 prize money.
Ba soccer boss Rishi Kumar believes another secret behind their success was the focus on home-grown talent.
“We do not believe in recruiting players from other districts. Instead we invest in the development of our own home grown talent. This has shown enormous results. We divert a lot of interest and financial investment in youth development and ensure that the future of our youths in football is well catered for as they are our future and need to be preserved.
“We have not only received praises in Fiji but overseas also. And our participation in the Oceania (OFC) playoffs has really marketed the team well and my boys are in high demand in New Zealand and Australia. We basically are making their future and give them all we can to become good footballers and more importantly better ambassadors of Ba.
“Whenever the team plays, the families of all the players are at the ground supporting the boys always. This comes as an additional boost for the team," he said.
“We make it a family affair and are always very close to one another. We are also spiritually bonded and thank the almighty for showering his blessings upon the team always.
“I urge the other districts to also follow what Ba is doing and they will get similar results.
“It is no use getting players from other districts and overseas clubs and denying the locals the chance as the outsiders will not give their hearts out like the locals do. The main point here is that we should not be looking at getting instant results by importing but should be looking into the future and should focus on development."
The Vodafone sponsored side will now prepare for their matches in the OFC playoffs and will play in the Champion vs. Champion against Labasa early next year.
Ba has a win in the OFC playoffs having beaten the Tafea FC of Vanuatu 1-0 at Govind Park last month.