Defending champions Fiji Police Force retained the 2023 Sukuna Bowl football title despite being held at 1-1 by the Republic of Fiji Military Force in a hard fought challenge at the Fiji Football Association Academy in Vatuwaqa today.
As per the tournament rule, when both teams are tied to a result at full time, the reigning champions get to keep the trophy.
Both Forces fielded their top players including former national and district reps together with the addition of few fresh legs.
Inosi Cava coached Police took the field without the services of its key district reps with the likes of Sairusi Nalaubu, Kishan Sami, Filipe Baravilala, Akuila Mateisuva, Gabiriele Matanisiga, Tevita Waranaivalu, Patrick Joseph and Mohammed Alzaar Alam who are on national duty at the 2023 Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands while three players were also dropped from the team for breaking camp.
Yet, Police displayed utmost determination in the match and countered the Military officers in all aspect of the match.
Military could have taken the lead in the 15th minute through Kolinio Sivovi when he beat three Police defenders but Lautoka’s experienced Police goalkeeper Senirusi Bokini stood firm disallowing Sivoki in goal.
Labasa midfielder Mohammed Zaid opened the account for Police after he slammed the roof of the net from a Madhwan Gounder set piece play finding goalkeeper Epeli Loaniceva off his guard in the 34th minute.
A few minutes later, former national rep and Labasa striker Christopher Wasalawa took the field in place of Moses Niumataiwalu to boost RFMF’s strike force yet, Military trailed by 1-0 at the break.
Some stern prep talk by coach Hitesh Goundar saw RFMF come out firing in the second stanza.
Military was awarded a free kick which Jope Nalatu took and found an unmarked Wasalasala, who headed in the equaliser in the 48th minute.
The two Forces battled hard throughout the remaining minutes but failed to change the scoreline.