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A tribute to Masters of the Game

The Annual Sashi Mahendra Singh Cup Veteran Soccer Tournament this year would set a record, creating an environment of ‘pure soccer’ and ‘pure fun’ for thousands of enthusiasts, players and team officials.

The New Zealand Fiji Veteran Soccer Association (an offshoot of parent body New Zealand Fiji AFC) is organising the event, which will kick off on January 27 at the Center Park in Mangere and conclude with a prize-giving ceremony on January 31, marking the Auckland Anniversary weekend.

With 30 teams, including 20 teams representing Over 35s and 10 teams featuring Over 40s players, the five-day Tournament, promises to be biggest ever in New Zealand’s veteran soccer history.

More than 70 matches will be held at Center Park in Mangere, the new home of Fiji Football.

Veteran Soccer will be the first major tournament to be held in the new Stadium.

It is understood that Auckland Football Association officials and other experts from the region will supervise the matches.

“It will be Veteran Soccer at its best, with the participation of teams from Australia, guest teams from New Zealand and players from Fiji,” organisers said.

Iliyas Daud, a veteran soccer player since his younger days and a man with a passion for quality and politics-free soccer, said the ensuing Sashi Mahendra Singh Cup matches would perhaps be the most exciting since the series began 11 years ago.

Unrivalled Veteran

“Sashi Mahendra Singh, in whose memory the annual matches are held, is a highly respected soccer personality in Fiji. He served Ba and Fiji as a representative player for 15 years (1939-1954) and thereafter as Vice-President of the Fiji Football Association for 14 years (1955-1969).

“While his services to soccer are remembered to this day, it is the duty of every organisation involved in the game to promote the ideals and principles for which Mr Singh strived all his life,” he said.

As well as serving as the National Coach for 16 years (1960-1976) with a two-year break, Mr Singh led his country’s team to the inaugural South Pacific Games held in Fiji in 1963, winning a Silver Medal.

He was the Treasurer of the Oceania Football Association for 20 years and served as the Coach and Manager of a Taiwan team. He was also instrumental in arranging a World Cup match between Australia and Taiwan to be played in Fiji.

Mr Daud said the soccer veteran introduced the National League Competition and created the First and Second Divisions in the Inter District Soccer Tournament. He also introduced the round-robin format in lieu of the knockout system.

“He left behind a rich legacy in Fiji Soccer with two of his sons as players and Coach for Ba and one as the National Fiji Coach for many years,” Mr Daud said. The Over 40s Competition will be played for the Billy Singh Memorial Cup.

Billy Singh was the son of late Mr S M Singh and both had illustrious careers as national coaches of Fiji.

High Calibre Soccer

He said the Veteran Soccer Tournaments in Auckland have had the makings of professionalism with high calibre players, with the participating teams keen on winning the coveted Cup.

“That is what every tournament should be – soccer should be the winner at the end of the day,” he said.

Among the organisers of this year’s Tournament with various responsibilities are Satywan Singh, Krishna Lal, Abbas Ali, Mahendra Singh, Rajesh Kumar, and newcomer Faiyaz Ali while the parent organization NZ Fiji AFC will be supporting with the sanctions, operations and logistics headed by James Kado and Mohammed Imran.

Editor’s Note: The names and spellings appearing in the above article are as supplied by the organisers.

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