In fact, football fans the world-over are known for their die-hard passion. I’m sure all gathered here today would agree and are die-hard fans themselves.
That’s why we need to raise the quality and standard of Fijian football to the level our nation deserves.
I remember the days when the standard of football was very good, one of the region’s best. That’s the standard we need to return to and improve on.
The current state of our national side is a constant cause of complaint and concern amongst fans: just look at all the letters to the editor written on the subject.
Football in Fiji has too often been let down by the administrators at the national level.
It’s a story that we’re all too familiar with in Fiji. Corruption, mismanagement and favouritism are barriers that our nation has faced in many different areas, including football.
My Government has committed itself to smashing these barriers across a broad front.
Transparency, accountability and good governance are absolutely critical to any organisation: and Fiji’s sporting bodies are no exception.
Soon, under our new constitution, public office holders will have to answer to an independent Accountability and Transparency Commission. The management of the Fiji Football Association and other sporting organisations should also be held to the same rigorous standard, answering not to a commission, but directly to the fans and players – to those whose confidence in the organisation has been shaken.
Fiji Football association officials need to do a better job in order to regain that confidence.
They need to use the group’s affiliation with FIFA to channel resources into the sport. They need to open management to new blood, with new ideas. They need to focus on professional development, at all levels. They need to understand that just because someone is a good administrator, it doesn’t make him a good coach. And they need to work to get Fiji’s ranking back up where it belongs.
To start with, there are a number of important regional playoffs lined-up over the next few years, and Fiji has to focus hard on those.
We also should set our sights on qualifying for a FIFA World Cup event. This is a very ambitious goal, but I believe it’s within our power. This would be a huge achievement for Fiji, and would certainly be a proud moment for all Fijians.
I thank the Fiji Football Association for persevering with the Fiji Fact which has become an annual event in our national sporting calendar. No doubt such tournaments help identify our up- coming national stars.
My government looks forward to working with the Fiji Football Association in not only improving our overall rating as a football nation but to also promote sports as means to keep all Fijians fit and healthy. As part of this initiative my government will develop integrated sporting facilities throughout Fiji, in particular in rural areas. This wonderful refurbished ANZ national stadium is part of our focus on improving sporting facilities to international standards. You are also aware that my Government has zero rated duty on sporting equipment and key sporting supplements.
But let’s return to the tournament today, the reason we are all gathered here. Fiji’s eight best football teams are set to square off.
Suva are the defending champions, and I know that there will be a lot of Suva fans in the stadium tonight, but looking at the line-up of teams, I think we’re in for another great tournament.