While it may sound derogatory to some, it would not be inappropriate to say that boys in Ba are born with balls – soccer balls.
This soccer-crazy town, some 60 kilometres away from the Nadi Airport on the North Western side of Fiji’s main island, welcomes visitors with a replica of a huge soccer ball next to Elevuka Bridge in the centre of the town.
There is something unique about this town, which has continuously produced excellent soccer players. Ba is a training ground of soccer players in Fiji.
It was therefore no surprise that the formal launch of Ba Fan Club at the newly opened Clubhouse and Pavilion at Centre Park in Mangere evinced widespread interest among soccer fans and the Indo-Fijian community.
The legendary Ba team had arrived prior to the Radio Apna Fiji Soccer Cup 2011.
Former Ba Town Clerk, Indian Newslink columnist and the author of Tears in Paradise Rajendra Prasad presided over the programme, taking the audience through memory lane when the Ba Soccer team created history in 1980s and 1990s by winning most of the prestigious soccer matches. It continues to do so even now. He acknowledged the Father of Fiji Soccer, the late Shashi Mahendra Singh and his contributions to promoting soccer in Fiji.
Labour MP and the Party’s Ethnic Affairs Spokesman Dr Rajen Prasad, who was the Chief Guest, launched the Club, commending the foresight of the organisers of the event.
“Sports help in the integration process by bringing all Kiwis together. I acknowledge the contributions of Indo-Fijians in nation-building through sports and congratulate the Mangere Park Sports Association officials for achieving a milestone,” he said.
Former Ba Mayor and former Minister in Bavadra Government, Ahemad Bhamji said the officials of the Fiji Soccer Cup 2011 deserved credit for their hard work and dedication.
“The Ba team is popular throughout the world. The team has been invited to play league games in New Zealand, Singapore and Canada. I hope that the Mangere Sports Association and Soccer Clubs will build bridges between nations and strengthen the New Zealand-Fiji ties,” he said.
Mr Bhamji, a veteran Ba Fan, has been a source of inspiration and a pillar of strength for the Pavilion and Sporting project.
The picture here shows Rajendra Prasad, Dr Rajen Prasad and Ahemad Bhamji at the launch of the Ba Fan Club in Auckland.
Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political and social commentator based in Auckland.