Fiji Football Association is the official governing body of the sport of football in Fiji. It is affiliated with the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) and Federation International de Football Association (FIFA). Fiji FA was founded in 1938 and became a member of FIFA in 1963.
It is affiliated to Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Commitee(FASANOC). Fiji FA has 23 district affiliates in Fiji along with Referees, Coaches, Primary and Secondary schools football. It is estimated that more than 35,000 active players play football in Fiji from various age level to Womens and veteran’s team in district or National organized Leagues and competitions with thousands more in social and business house leagues and competitions. Fiji FA organizes and develop programmes to prepare age group and National teams for men and womens to compete in FIFA qualifying Championships within the OFC for Football.
Futsal and Beach soccer competitions as well as regional sporting competitions such as the Pacific Games. The National League Board (NLB), Womens Football, Futsal/ Beach Soccer Commission are included as part of larger Fiji FA structure responsible for their specific areas of operation. The Fiji FA’s mission is for excellence in all it does to bring glory to the game and all the stakeholders who make up the football family of this country.
Fiji was among the founding members of OFC along with Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. The nation of around 800,000 has traditionally been one of Oceania best performers – second only to New Zealand in the FIFA rankings for men. The Fiji Football Association (FFA) nurtures hopes of one day toppling the giants in Oceania and qualifying for a FIFA finals competition.
Football has a huge following in Fiji but also competes with rugby and rugby league. Futsal has also grown in popularity with Fiji becoming the regular host of the OFC Futsal Championship – now an annual competition.
On Wednesday 5 October 2011, Rajesh Patel has been elected in as the new Fiji Football Association President.
Ancestors who had came to Fiji from India as indentured labourers brought with them their rich and varied cultures and the many talents which included “Kabaddi”, wrestling, “gadka” and weight lifting. These talents were practiced around the “coolie” lanes and displayed at festivals such as “Ram Lila”
Football could not be played during the indenture days because playing fields were not available and the ancestors could not finish their daily tasks before dusk. When indenture period ended in 1921, many of the ancestors had established themselves and were free to engage themselves in any activity of their choice.
Although there were many men who had love for football as early as 1920, organised football was only established in 1922 when Sunshine soccer team of Suva and Sitare Hind of Rewa played their first match. The above two were joined later by League Service, Dilkusha and Union Soccer Clubs.
The only ground available at that time was the St. Columbus Primary School ground in Toorak, Suva (popularly known as the Brother School Ground). The clubs met at regular intervals for the next 6-7 years and played football purely as a form of recreation.
Proper clubs were formed in 1928 when Dr I.H Beattie, the editor of the then popular newspaper VRIDHI donated the VRIDHI CUP.
The only condition attached was that only properly organised clubs could compete and any club winning the cup for three successive years could keep the cup for good. By this time Indian Soccer Football League was formed which organised matches for the VRIDHI CUP between the Rewa and Suva clubs. Dilkusha Soccer Club from Rewa had won VRIDHI CUP successively for three years and became the permanent holders.
The first real Inter District was held in 1936 when a team from Suva visited Lautoka and the home team was the winner. This was followed by a return match in Suva the following year. Due to poor transport players faced great difficulties in travelling. Although football was played at club level it was not until 1937 when Rewa Soccer Association was formed. By this time football had spread and become popular in Nadi, Sigatoka, Ba and Levuka apart from Suva, Rewa and Lautoka.
Exchange of visits by one district too another created in the minds of the soccer stalwarts of that time the desire to form a national association.
During the weekend football gatherings, views were exchanged whereby it was agreed to hold a meeting and invite all districts where soccer was played to attend.
On October 8, 1938 representatives from all soccer districts assembled in the office of Messrs . A. S Farebrother &Co, in Suva. It was here that Fiji Indian Football Association (FIFA) was duly established with the following as founder office bearers
President- Mr. AS Farebrother (Suva)
Vice Presidents- Mr. Dwarka Singh (Suva)
– Mr. Jaffar Khan (Lautoka)
– Mr. G.S Deo (Rewa)
– Mr. S.B Patel (Lautoka)
– Mr. Ram Charittra (Nadi)
– Secretary /Treasurer- Mr. B.M Janiff (Suva)
Suva , Rewa, Ba, Lautoka and Levuka became the founder member associations. The founder President Mr. Farebrother donated the coverted Lloyd Farebrother Trophy to be competed for annually by the member districts.
The first Inter District for the LIoyd Farebrother trophy was held in Suva on the 9th and 10th October , 1938. Rewa district had imprinted their first impression on this trophy by defeating Ba in the final thus becoming the winners of the first Inter District.
By the end of 1938 district football associations were established in Rewa, Suva, Lautoka, Ba, Nadi, Levuka, Nadroga and Rakiraki. The legal experts of that time had put their heads together and drafted the first constitution for Fiji Indian Football Association which was adopted at a meeting held in Lautoka on 22 April, 1939.
Lautoka hosted its first Inter District the same year when once again Rewa won the final by defeating Suva. Rewa hosted its first Inter District in 1940 followed by Ba in 1941 and Nadi in 1942.
Labasa and Tavua Indian Football Associations were established in 1942. The F.I.F.A executive had, for the first time moved the Inter district from the mainland to Levuka in 1943. Navua and Tailevu Naitasiri Football Associations were established and they joined the other ten districts.
The following year Inter District was held in Rakiraki where during the AGM a motion to have all deliberations in Hindustani was defeated.
During the Inter District held in Lautoka in 1945 a marathon semifinal lasting for 2 and half hours was played between Suva and Tailevu Naitasiri.
Since the administration of F.I.F.A had expanded and travelling costs had increased the constitution was revised in 1947, making provisions for imposition of gate charges. During the Inter District held in Ba that year Rarawai’s CSR ground was enclosed and a sum of 261 pounds 4 shillings 8 pence was realised. From that time gate charges have been levied at all our tournaments.
Taveuni Indian Football Association was established during that year. For the first time Inter District final had to be postponed in 1948 due to the heavy rainfall in Suva and flooding of Albert Park.
Upto 1951 club matches throughout the year culminating in Inter District soccer tournaments were major events. Fiji played its first International march in 1951 against New Zealand at Albert Park. Although our team lost 4-6 it was a historic event.
Fiji Secondary Schools Football Association was established in 1951. FIFA presented a trophy and Natabua High School was the first winners.
The following year New Zealand’s representative team came for a fortnight’s tour of Fiji and played seven games, winning six and drawing one against Lautoka.
Now that Fiji had entered the international football scene, Tahiti visited Fiji and played a match against the Southern District team defeating it very narrowly.
Although matches were controlled by experienced referees and senior players (in some cases), there was no referees organisation. The active referees of that time got together in 1954 and founded the Fiji Football Referees Association with Mr. Shiu Nath Sharma as its founder President. This was a valuable step in the right direction. Since then Fiji Football Referees Association have continued to render valuable services. Tailevu North Football Association was established in 1957.
Having survived for twenty one years as a voluntary sporting body was not a mean and easy achievement, so F.I.F.A thought it appropriate to celebrate its twenty first birthday in Suva in 1958. All the fourteen affiliates had participated and Lautoka managed to edge out Suva in the final. There was a grand celebration orgainsed in Suva to mark this important event. Lautoka created history by winning the LIoyd Farebrother Trophy for the three successive years 1957, 1958 and 1959.
The two Vanua Levu districts, Savusavu and Nadroga were established in 1959 and 1960 respectively thus increasing representations from Vanua Levu. Although a number of our players were playing football overseas while studying at famous universities, no National representative team had left our shores. In 1961 the first Fiji representative side went on tour of New South Wales.
The team was coached by Mr. S.M. Singh with Mr. A.I.N Deoki as manager and Mr. R.H. Bechan as Assistant Manager. This year proved to be the historic year for Ba because they won the Inter District for the first time.
Twenty Five good years had passed and Fiji Indian Football Association had planned for an elaborate Silver Jubilee Celebration in Lautoka from 4-6 August, 1962. All this time virtually all teams had mostly Indian players because F.I.F.A constitution provided for inclusion of only two non Asians. It was during the Silver Jubilee Celebration’s Annual General Meeting when Fiji Indian Football Association changed its name to Fiji Football Association. Thus, opening its doors to participation by all races without any restrictions. A lot of heated debate had taken place before the motion was passed.
On becoming a multi racial football body with no racial football restrictions, Fiji Football Association affiliated with World Soccer body FIFA in 1963. This move had since paid high dividends to Fiji’s football development programmes. The inaugural South Pacific Games was held in Fiji and FFA’s football side competed along with the neighbouring nations.
Having watched the vartying standards of football displayed by our sixteen affiliated districts , the soccer pundits of 1968 agreed to classify eight top districts as Division 1 and others as Division II .
These districts were classified as follows:
Division 1: Ba, Labasa, Lautoka, Nadi, Rakiraki, Rewa, Sigatoka, Suva
Division II: Nadroga, Tailevu Naitasiri, Tailevu North, Levuka, Savusavu, Taveuni, Tavua and Navua.
History was created when for the first time Inter District was held in Labasa in 1969. This gave Viti Levu players, officials and spectators a opportunity to experience either aeroplane or sea journey and also enjoy the friendly and renowned Labasa hospitality. As for many northerners this was their life time opportunity to witness an Inter District tournament. It was here in Labasa that Nadi achieved what it could not in the past three decades by defeating Suva in the final and winning the Lloyd Farebrother trophy for the first time.
As part of our contribution to the Independence Celebration Fiji Football Association organised a soccer tournament in 1970 culminating in the final at Albert Park in Suva where Suva defeated Labasa.
In 1974 his Majesty King Taufa’ahau Tupou visited Fiji for whom a number of exhibition matches were oraginsed in the West. Since 1969 Inter District in Labasa proved a sucuess and majority of the football lovers had enjoyed Labasa hospitality , FFA oraginsed its 1975 Inter District in Labasa.
A major change in this tournament was that instead of the usual August Bank Holiday weekend, this tournament was played during the October Fiji Day weekend. Fiji Primary Schools Soccer Association was founded by Mr. James Hari Pal in 1975.
Until 1976 wherever Inter District tournament was held , Fiji Football Association had to inject large sums of money to get temporary seating structures and enclosures erected. These structures were not only uncomfortable but very risky indeed. At all times timber, nail, corrugated iron, hammers and saws had to be kept handy. Thanks to Mr. Dijendra Singh, the then mayor of Ba, who motivated Ba Town Council into getting a permanent stadium constructed at Govind Park.
The year 1976 had proven to be a very special year for Fiji Football Association. Bua and Nasinu Soccer Associations were established this year. Apart from enjoying the comfort of a permanent international standard stadium most players had their first experience at playing under floodlight.
A great stride forward was the introduction of the round robin basis of play rather than the knockout for the Division 1 districts. To accommodate this development the 1976 Inter District tournament had to be stretched over four days beginning on Friday. To add to these events we were greatly honoured when FIFA President Dr Joao Havelange and secretary Dr Helmur Kaiser made their first official visit to Fiji.
As a result of the visit by FIFA officials, first ever FIFA development project took place in Fiji June 1977. Coaches, administrators, referees and sports medicine people benefited tremendously from the week long course conducted by FIFA experts.
Another history chapter was created when Mr Sashi Mahendra Singh of Ba managed to influence soccer administrators into the introduction of the National Soccer League for Division 1.
Air New Zealand became the inaugural sponsors of the National Soccer League in 1977. During the same year Mr. John Lal coached Fiji National team that defeated Australian national team at Suva’s Buckhurst Park and a few days later drew with Chinese Taipei national teams had come to Fiji to play their preliminary World Cup elimination match.
Battle of the Giants tournament was given birth by Suva Soccer Association when it hosted the inaugural Air Pacific sponsored tournament at Ba’s Govind Park in 1978. Here after the Battle of the Giants had become a popular annual sports event in June fetching much needed funds for Fiji Football Associations development projects. Nadi won the honour of becoming the soccer giants of Fiji.
Vatukoula Soccer Association was established in 1979 The same year FFA oraginsed the Girmit Tournament at Ba’s Govind Parkto raise funds for Girmit Centre in Lautoka and also to mark the 100 years of the arrival of Indians in Fiji.
Another milestone in the history of Football in Fiji unfolded with the introduction of Timber and Building Supplies Division Two Soccer League. This generated lively and healthy competitions among the Division II districts. Lami and Nalawa soccer associations were established during this year.
The year 1980 added more pages to Fiji Soccer history. Fiji Football Association after having located its office in the homes of various secretaries for the past four decades finally bought its own valuable property just above Albert Park in Suva. The Division II districts were given opportunity to play on the round robin basis during the Inter District in Ba. For the first time a senior national representative team went to Tonga and Western Samoa wining most of their matches. The team was managed by Mr. Ram Vinod. Yet another history was created by Ba soccer team when it has won the Lloyd Farebrother Trophy for the sixth consecutive year .
This achievement is unlikely to be by-passed. In December 1980 the World Youth Tournament Oceania Zone playoff for Coca Cola Cup was held at National Stadium in Suva. The following year Seaqaqa Soccer Association was established. Our second national team under the manager ship of Mr. J.D Maharaj participated in the Mini South Pacific Games in Honiara in 1981.
Our national soccer team played against world rated Mexican team and lost narrowly in August 1980. Although Fiji Football Association had made a lot of progress in all fields, something which most officials dreamt of became a reality when Fiji national soccer team entered into 1982 World Cup playoffs. With Mr. Wally Hughes as coach and Mr Chandar Dip Sharma and Mr. Moti Musadilai as managers , our national team played home and away matches against Australia, Indonesia, Chinese Taipei and New Zealand.
While our players gained experience, we were defeated by both Australia and New Zealand with record goals.
The first Cup winners tournament was oraginsed at Ba’s Govind Park on April 17-18 , 1982. Ba, Lautoka, Nadi, Rewa, and Suva who had won Inter District and Battle of the Giants honours participated. Hussain Solar Industries were the sponsors and Nadi emerged the winner. In April 1984 Mr. Doug Moore and Mr. Ron Harris conducted a week long course for coaches and referees respectively at Suva’s National Sports Gymnasium.
Once again in March 1985 FIFA President Dr Joao Havelange and FIFA Referees committee chairman Mr Harry Cavan paid an official visit to Fiji.
Tahitian national soccer team made a three match tour of Fiji in July , 1985. The first ever Oceania Zone referees instructors course was held at Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva from 11-15 November, 1985.
This was followed by the Oceania Congress in Suva on 16th November. Fiji Football Association deemed it appropriate to change Division II and I concept to senior and premier respectively.
To give exposure to the top club from each district.Burns Philip Home Centre sponsored first club championship which was orgainsed in Suva on 8-9 February , 1986. Tanoa Club of Nadi had emerged the winner. Similarly our youths did not get the exposure they deserve d while paying during the Battle of the Giants tournament so a Youth Championship was oraginsed in Suva from 18-20 July , 1986. This was sponsored by Bandaag and Labasa youth team emerged the winner.
Fiji Football Association referees association organised a grand dinner night at Town House Hotel in December 1986 to mark the international year of Soccer referees. Specially minted medals were presented to all active referees and the referees of yester years.
The year 1987 started off with the usual soccer activities and every soccer enthusiast had anticipated a feast of football but due to national disturbance activities came to a virtual stand till. Fiji Football Association lost more than $200,000 in revenue due to cancellation of Battle of the Giants and Inter District Championship. For the first time in FFA’s 50 years of existence, Inter District could not be orgainsed.
Fiji Football Association was very fortunate in getting Mr Heinz Morotzke and Mr Tony Waiters to conduct a FIFA Coca Cola World Football Youth Academy at National Sports Complex from September 2-9, 1987. 22 coaches from throughout Fiji participated.
The year 1988 began with great enthusiasm and determination for the development of football. Although the Sunday ban was in force , FFA encouraged all its affiliates to organise their activities on Sunday.
Vinod Patel/Asian Paints sponsored Open Soccer Championship was orgainsed at Ba’s Govind Park in April. There were a lot of upsets and surprises when both the senior and premiers played together, Nadroga created history by winning the tournament.
In May Oceania Football Confederation in conjunction with Fiji FA, conducted a week-long development course for over 50 selected referees and coaches at Nasinu Residential College. Fiji FA decided to send a National U16 team to the Oceania zone play-off in Sydney in January 1989. The team was managed by Hari Raj Naicker and Ram Pratap Junior.
With the blessing of Fiji FA Ba Soccer Association oraganised Champion vs Champion tournament at Govind Park during August Bank Holiday weekend. Once again Sigatoka notched the honours.
From August 22-27 a development course for soccer administration, managers and coaches which was funded by Olympic Solidarity, was held at School of Maritime Studies in Suva.
A week after this Fiji FA hosted FIFA Coca Cola World Youth Championship Oceania Zone playoff at Suva’s National Sports Stadium. The tournament organisation was very good but unfortunately our U20 team coached by Farouk Janeman and managed by Ashok Balgovind could not qualify for any award.
Having existed for 50 years, Fiji FA decided to celebrate its Golden Jubliee along with its annual Inter District tournament in Suva.