The June 1985 winter tour of New Zealand by the Fiji national soccer team was an amazing experience for the players from the developing island nation of Fiji as they were not familiar with Western standards of living or the bitter cold of a New Zealand winter. As was common in that era, the partying and drinking of the players spiraled out of control as overseas trips were very rare for ordinary Fijians in that era and players wanted to maximize the enjoyment which they could take from the tour. On-the-field, Fiji struggled to find a rhythm, and was defeated by New Zealand in all three matches, 5-0, 3-0, and 2-0. Encouragingly, the team never gave up and the losing margin was being progressively cut as the tour progressed. The tour unearthed a promising new talent, a young Muslim man from Ba called Mohd. Aiyub Bai. Although the emigration of Fiji-Indians had not yet reached its peak, there was an expatriate Fijian community in New Zealand at this time and they made every effort to make the touring team feel comfortable and at home. Henry Dyer, a member of the Fiji team, says that, with hindsight, the team lacked a strong mentor and motivator as senior player; Joe Tubuna had perished in a car-crash the previous August and Inia Bola and Semi Tabaiwalu had had their careers cut short in the same tragic accident.
Keywords: Fiji Islands; Fiji soccer; Fiji soccer history; New Zealand soccer; Pacific Islands; Soccer history
Henry Dyer Tuidraki played for both Nadi and Lautokain the Fiji national-league in the 1980s and represented theFiji national team in many games, including the 1983 SouthPacific Games Final in Apia, Samoa; the May 1985 3-0 win overEngland’s Newcastle United; and the unsuccessful June 1985winter tour of New Zealand. Henry Dyer Tuidraki presently livesin Nakavu Village, Nadi Town, Fiji Islands, where he has servedas both assistant and acting village headman.
We toured New Zealand in winter 1985 but we did not dowell because we were not using the European soccer patternfrom Germany which we had learned from our former nationalteam coach Rudi Gutendorf. We had a good combination ofyouth and seasoned players who were travelling on this tour torepresent Fiji. The youth players were Ivor Evans, Akuila Rova,and this tall Muslim boy from Ba (Mohd. Aiyub Bai). The seasonedplayers were Savenaca Waqa, Abraham Watkins, Meli Vuilabasa,Stan Morrell, Rusiate Waqa, Sam Work, and Kelemedi “Cheetah”Vosuga. In the backs there was Stan Morrell, Abdul Manaan,and me. In the midfield there was Meli Vuilabasa, Kelemedi“Cheetah” Vosuga, and Tony Kabakoro. In the forwards there wasIvor Evans, Rusiate Waqa, and Akuila Rova. The goalkeeper wasSavenaca Waqa. The reserve goalkeeper was Suka Tuba (fromthe since relegated Nasinu Soccer Association). This was thecore of the team which I vividly remember. We had the cream ofthe crop there. Unfortunately, we lost all three matches. Maybeit was due to complacency and the extremely cold weather. Wehad to turn on the electric blankets before we went to bed. It wasthe first time for me to use an electric blanket and see firewoodburning in a modern cement house. It was all new to me. It musthave been a very new experience for most of the players andespecially for the younger boys who had just joined the squad.This was the first time for me to go overseas, outside of thePacific Islands region, to represent the nation.
We did not do too badly against the New Zealand team inthe three matches even though they almost walked all over us inevery game. The opening match was played at Mount Maunganui,Tauranga on June 3, 1985 in front of a crowd of 2,250 people.The second game was played at Childers Road Reserve, Gisborneon June 5, 1985 and the attendance were 1,500 people. The thirdand final game was played at Bill McKinlay Park in Auckland onJune 7, 1985 in front of a crowd of 1,000 people. The scores were:5-0 in the first game, 3-0 in the second game and 2-0 in the thirdand final game (sources: Prasad  Appendix VII, p. 94; Rsssf.com, n/d). We managed to hold them back with our individualstrength in defense. We would have been thrashed badly if wehad lost our composure. I learned a lot on this trip. Looking back,from the perspective of today, I believe that we had a missingingredient within the touring party. I think it was the motivatoror mentor. One factor was because the German coach RudiGutendorf had left the team. The English play pattern, which hehad brought from Germany to Fiji in 1983, had been grasped bythe senior players who were able to implement it with skill. Intwo years, in the absence of Rudi in Fiji, the attacking and thedefensive patterns had faded away to the extent that most of theboys by then had adapted to a new pattern. So, it was a mix of theold and the new. I always take my hat off to the local coach, BillySingh, for taking the Fiji soccer team through until he passedaway. If there had been a senior person close to the team as amotivator or mentor, such as the late Joe Tubuna, his appearanceon the field with a few words of encouragement would havemade a lot of difference. Billy had played with Tubuna and sothey had already developed a working partnership. The boysrespected Joe as a player, a captain, and a leader. He had the artto charm the boys with his smile and his talk. He got along wellwith the boys. He was a very down-to-earth person. I believethat if Fiji Football Association had thought of the small things,such as taking along a motivator or mentor to psych up the teambefore games, the performance of the team might well have beenbetter.
I remember the first game we played at Mount Maunganui.As I said, we played our hearts out. At times we started to argueamongst ourselves. No-one knew that we were arguing becauseit was in the Fijian language. It was only about how to strengthenour defense and how not to take any further punishment. Asoften happens in Fiji soccer today, there was a lot of crowdingup and no-one on the side-lines to tell us to use the flanks. Therewas no-one who was reading the game from outside to tell us ourweaknesses and our strengths. There are two points here. Therewas no motivator and no strategist or technical adviser. However,during this tour, the Fijian community in New Zealand lookedafter the boys well. They were there to cheer the boys on duringthe games and they hosted the boys after the matches werefinished. Today, when the national team leaves our shores, theyshould consider that they are taking Fiji’s name and that theyare going as ambassadors. They should be prepared to counterand display all aspects of the modern approach to the game.They should have a structure to their play. It would be better tohave two or three patterns and then stick to those two or threepatterns. Then, if the team or the squad changes, the pattern isstill there. I know it will not be easy to reach this standard ofpreparation and performance. It will not be done overnight. Itwill take a period of time, perhaps three years or five years.
I hope that Fiji Football can look into these issues especiallywhen the various national teams go on overseas tours. Ournational team and the Under-20s team should both have atleast two overseas tours per year. This will bring standard andcomposure to the players and bring the teams’ games up to themodern world standard. It is a wonder that the other Pacificnations which we used to thrash, such as Solomons and Vanuatu,are now our biggest threats and continually beat us. I don’tknow what is happening with our performance as we play moretournaments and league matches than the other Pacific nations.We have the talent in the villages and in the rural settlementsin the cane-belt areas (the western region of Viti Levu plusLabasa) to become a successful soccer nation at Oceania leveland possibly beyond that. If we could beat Newcastle United,Australia, and New Zealand in the 1980s , I am sure that, withcareful strategic planning and expert leadership, we can be closeto NZ and Australia or even above them. I pray that one day maybegovernment or FIFA or Oceania Confederation will come in toevaluate and alleviate all aspects of the game’s management andperformance. When we were doing well, in the past, the rugbycrowd and players used to follow us. They mingled with us veryclosely because in our performances we had shown ourselvesto be a notch above them. Beers were given to us by the soccercrowd just like a packet of cigarettes today. You would just walkinto a shop and they would give it. This is evidence of the supportwhich existed for soccer back then, but the game was heading inthe wrong direction because there were no overarching strategicplans either on-the-field or off-the-field. Today rugby may belaughing at our sport of soccer because of the placing that theyhave in the world rankings compared to our placing. The talentin the villages is a constant factor and can be used to play eitheror both sports. Therefore, rugby’s success compared to soccer’smust be due to superior strategic planning and management. Ibelieve that Rajesh Patel (Fiji Football president) has the visionto put Fiji back on the soccer map (Table 1).
Unfortunately, Fiji’s soccer success in the past is not widelyknown among the younger people. If the younger soccer fansknew about Fiji’s soccer history, then it would be a source ofpride and inspiration. When former star soccer players go towatch the senior games today the crowd does not seem to knowthem or consider them as somebody. However, they are unawarethat they were the driving forces of soccer in that previousera. Soccer history largely exists in verbal form, rather than inwritten form, in Fiji; and this means that it can fade away as onegeneration disappears. Lack of interest is another factor for the dearth of substantial written soccer history in this country. Torecap, the 1985 winter tour of New Zealand was a lesson forme personally and for Fiji soccer. Figure 1 depicts Henry DyerTuidraki (left) and Meli Vuilabasa, Fiji teammates on the 1985tour, reunited in Ba Town on 2 June 2015 (Figure 1).
This section discusses the restaurants and nightlife of OldLautoka City, Fiji Islands, in the 1960s through to the 1990s, asrecalled by the ex-Nadi and Fiji soccer champion Henry DyerTuidraki in conversation with Kieran James on April 16, 2015.Lautoka has changed. Today there are new buildings as comparedto the colonial buildings of the first business houses. There wereonly a few Chinese people before at that time. I remember EddieHin and Kum Poi. I was brought up with some of them then in theearly-1960s through to the 1970s. We went to church with mostof the Chinese community at the Evangelical Fellowship Churchwhich was located just beside Jasper Williams High School. Thechurch still stands today. The pastor then was Pastor Cairns. Hisson, Pastor Cairns Junior, took over. This is when I learned aboutthe Chinese community at an early age as I became friends withthem. One of the Chinese children (Graeme Leung) became thechairperson or president of the Law Society. Figure 2 depicts FijiIslands with Lautoka City and Nadi Town being seen in the upperleft(north-west) quartile of the largest island Viti Levu. Figure 3provides a map of Lautoka City Center, featuring Churchill Park,Namoli Village, Naviti Street, and Hunter’s Inn Nightclub whichis housed within the Lautoka Hotel compound on Tui Street (andis marked by the initials LH on the map) (Figures 2 & 3).
Most of the Chinese restaurateurs have moved on todifferent businesses. One of the restaurants then was Yang’s,located beside the Globe Theater. The Globe Theater was locatedon the corner of Naviti Street and Vakabale Street just oppositeJolly Good Restaurant and the market. A Chinese provision andlolly shop are located there today (i.e. April 16, 2015). Yang’sRestaurant was located around three stores away from GlobeTheater, further down on Naviti Street (in the direction towardsMH and Nan Yang Seafood Restaurant). Business in Lautoka thenwas very slow compared to today. Inside the Filipino tailor shoptoday (opposite the market on Vakabale Street) you can still seethe stairway which used to lead up to the Globe Theater. Therestaurant called The Great Wall of China Restaurant on NavitiStreet (opposite Renee’s Pub) was not open then. Those Chinesecame in later although now I have heard that that family claimsto be the leader of the Chinese community in Lautoka (Table 2).
There was also the Crown Theater. It had wooden walls. It iswhere In fashion store is located today on Vitogo Parade. It wasreally old when we started going to cinemas then. I don’t knowfor how long it had been standing before I was born in the early-1960s. The third cinema was the Mayfair Theater which waslocated where Village 4 is today. Crown Theater closed down along way back, years before the Globe Theater closed. This wasprobably due to its age. It might have been difficult to resurrectit. There were only two curry house shops in Lautoka, Narsey’sand Bombay Lodge. Narsey’s was located beside the PacificTransport Headquarters which is now one of those big takeawayrestaurants in Lautoka. Narsey’s was located on Yasawa Street; itwas about the sixth shop from the corner and opposite from thebus station. At Narsey’s they had a variety of curries and theywere the best in town then. I remember because, when I firstworked as a dockworker at Lautoka Wharf (age 17) when I gotmy pay (around $17-per-shift which was big money), I used tosee the drift of the dockworkers towards this curry house. Thisis how and when I got my first taste of curry restaurant food inLautoka. Today this restaurant is still there but with a differentowner and a different name. Back then to have a meal away fromhome was like going to America and coming back. It seemed likethat to me then as a child. There were other curry houses suchas Bombay Lodge on Naviti Street (opposite Sugar City Mall) butNarsey’s was a famous place and everyone was heading there(Table 3).
Yang’s Restaurant was the top-class restaurant in Lautokathen. They would fix the dish up with real Chinese spices. It was atop-class restaurant and not just a café or takeaway shop. Therewas another Chinese restaurant, Eddy Hin’s. They still have thisrestaurant, but I don’t know who the owners are now. Nan YangSeafood Restaurant is located in the same shop too. There wereonly two Chinese restaurants back then. More people went toYang’s probably due to its location near to the bus station, thecenter of town, and the taxis. At that time the Indian communitywas very closely-knit. They did not mingle with the (indigenous)Fijians much perhaps due to fear of discrimination. It was veryhard to play soccer on the field with the Indian children. Theyhad a soccer ball and you would sit on the side-lines waiting toplay and they would say “no Fijians” perhaps because we wereperceived to be stronger and rougher. At night you would seldomsee an Indian on the street compared to nightlife today. Theyhave opened up to this side of life much more now. The dressstyle of the young Indian girls today is different. Back then youwould not see girls wearing tight jeans or long pants. They usedto just wear Indian clothes such as saris. If you saw an Indiangirl, then in long pants everyone would look at her and youwould hear the passing of remarks. At that time, I am sure thatthe Indian population of Lautoka was significantly higher than itis today because of emigration.
There were only four nightclubs in Lautoka. The oldest ofthem all was Raymond’s Night Club. Today it is a warehousebuilding connected to the wharf. It was right at the edge of thegate to the wharf. This nightclub had a balcony where you couldlook out towards the Bekana Island, Namoli Village, and beyond.This nightclub was the meeting-place for the local (indigenous)Fijian crowd. The owner was Raymond Wong. His son is PatrickWong. He is one of the tourism big boys today. As at February2007 he was the general manager of Matamanoa Island Resortand in 2009 he was Tourism Fiji chairperson. Patrick was aformer boxing champion in bantamweight. We used to go to thisnightclub just to see what life was like after nightfall. It used toclose around 1:00 a.m. It shut down around the same time asGlobe Theater or just prior to that. This would have been in thelate-1970s or early-1980s. It was very similar to the atmosphereyou find today at Deep Sea Nightclub in Nadi or Renee’s Pub inLautoka. People who have money take the floor and those whogo to watch stand aside and wait for the chance to push their wayin and take advantage of the benefits. This was just a joke to usas youth. We would sit back and watch how things worked in thenightclub. We just wanted to get a buzz before we went home. Iremember I was there one night because I wanted to see whatlife was like in a nightclub. My uncle (Eneri Ratudradral) was arugby player for Lautoka then. When he saw me, he said: “Heynephew, come here.” I thought he was happy to see me. This wasin the nightclub. He asked me who I had come with. I said: “Withmy friends.” Then he pulled out his belt and he said: “I want tosee you go down these stairs and then run home to the village.”He was referring to Namoli Village where I then lived (refer toFigure 3). This did not deter me as we had quite a large groupand we would always move together (either to play sports or togo to functions or to see what nightlife was about).
The second nightclub was Whiskey Town. This nightclub waslocated at the top of the stairway next to Bargain Box and nearto the Australian betting shop on Vitogo Parade. This nightclubhad no escape route. The only way out was the stairwell whichyou had come up! This nightclub was a very rowdy placeperhaps because it was in the town area. It was not open duringthe daytime. Whiskey Town was more often frequented by the
villagers from the Lautoka area than Raymond Wong’s nightclubwas. The villagers came from Vitogo, Naviago, Vuda, and Namoli.It was easier than for the people from Vuda to come to Lautoka.We used to watch fights breaking out as a result of argumentswhich spiralled out of control. We would see fights but therewas always something more to it than was obvious to people atthe time. Sometimes fights would spill out on to Vitogo Parade.This nightclub was closed sometime after Club 21. It was easierfor people to go to Whiskey Town because going to Raymond’smeant a long walk back home to the village. Raymond’s closeddown first and then Club 21 and then Whiskey Town. WhiskeyTown was at the center of the city and so it was the number onevenue for the city’s nightlife. This venue was the place whereeveryone went to for sports and social. It offered easy access toeverybody. (Lautoka Club had already opened back then.)
Club 21 closed down before Whiskey Town. The locationwas opposite where Great Wall of China Restaurant is locatednow on the south side of Naviti Street (about halfway betweenVidilo Street and Vakabale Street). I think it is upstairs fromnext to the Chinese phone shop called Dickson’s. There was anindoor spiral staircase up to it which is still there today. This wasa nightclub for the young working generation and the schoolchildren.By contrast, Whiskey Town was for the villagers andthe local (indigenous) Fijian community. Club 21 had a very goodatmosphere because all communities around Lautoka met there.This is where the young generation, which schooled in variousplaces around Lautoka, came to meet up with each other in theevenings. I used to go there when I was in Ba Provincial SecondarySchool and later. Ba Provincial Secondary School was located atfirst where the present Housing Authority Office is today (besideCoronation Church). When I studied at this school it had alreadymoved to its present location. Club 21 was very lax in checkingwhether you were of drinking age. You just had to look smart andact smart. There were fights there also. Sometimes old rivalrieswould lead to fights (for example, Waiyavi boys versus Toplineboys). (Topline is a suburb on the outskirts of Lautoka.) Thiswas a meeting place too during the eight-week school holidays.It used to be absolutely jam-packed. This nightclub was for allcommunities, but it was mainly patronized by the (indigenous)Fijians and the part-Europeans because the Indians tended tostick to themselves.
There were no Indian nightclubs then. The only place thatthe Indians went to occurred much later. It was opened just afew years back. That is the nightclub opposite the Sugar CityMall on Naviti Street. At that location there used to be the GalaxyNightclub although it came later than the other nightclubsalready mentioned. It only opened in the late-1970s. It wasfor the upper-class. It had a new type of dance-floor, lightsunderneath the floor, and the flickering balls which lit up thewalls. Galaxy Nightclub was also mostly for the Fijians and thepart-Europeans. It was later one of the busiest places of themall. In that central location the transport and the food wereeasily accessible, and this factor ensured its popularity. Noneof the restaurants open now in Lautoka were open back then.Tigers and Jolly Good have only been there for a short period oftime (perhaps eight or nine years). I used to go to Lautoka Clubbut not all that often. I would go there for a drink or for specialfunctions. Figure 4 shows the second-mentioned author KieranJames (left) with Jenny Leung at the Lautoka Club in 2014.Figure 5 depicts Henry Dyer Tuidraki (left) with the ex-LautokaBlues soccer champion Wally Mausio also at the Lautoka Club inOctober of the same year (Figures 4 & 5).
Sports and Social was another nightclub. At that time therewere four nightclubs – Raymond’s, Whiskey Town, Club 21,and Sports and Social. Galaxy was opened after Raymond’s hadclosed down. Sports and Social Club was meant for the sportspeople of Lautoka. It was designed as a place for sportspeopleto gather after matches. Sports and Social Club was located rightbeside Churchill Park. It was a building just to the right of theticket booth at the Churchill Park main entrance. The buildinghas since been demolished. It was where all the sportspeopleand people from all sectors of life would meet together after thegame and they would stay there until it was time to head home.We enjoyed meeting with the older generation of that time asthey enjoyed us serving their beers and we would show respectto them. It gave them a touch of youth again. I remember oldGeorge Farrell, Alosi Johns and her husband David Johns (myuncle), Mrs. Millie Ah Tong, and Dr. Tuidraki. They were the regulars of the club during that time.
The Sports and Social Club was for the older working crowd.This was their pub. The younger generation sometimes wouldspill over and mingle with the older guys in the hope of receivingmore beers because the older crowd, then as now, had moremoney. Sports and Social was where the younger generationwould look to. It was a Nadi Club type of place but for thematured (indigenous) Fijians. It was patronized by governmentworkers and private-sector workers. There were fights theresometimes when the older respected citizens were not around.The fights used to be extremely brutal because there were twoempty streets and a whole playground to use for fights. You hadto either fight or run for your life. We used to enjoy it. We wouldstand on the sugar-cane tramlines and watch. We would seepeople run or get knocked out. This club was open during thedaytime as well. At one stage food was available but then thatwas stopped. People were very sad when this club closed. Thiswas one of the saddest moments for Lautoka as it was owned bythe locals. Even today, when I walk past that place, the memorieskeep coming back. It has been demolished for over ten yearsnow and nothing has been done. I hope something can be doneto resurrect it again. Club 21 changed its name to Great Wall ofChina. Now I see a restaurant in Naviti Street called Great Wallof China and I assume that they borrowed the name from thenightclub and/or that there were some connections throughmaternal links. The real Great Wall person was Raymond Wong(Patrick Wong’s father) who also owned Club 21. Patrick Wongis in the tourism sector now. At one time he was managing one ofthe island resorts. I am really not sure where he is now.
Yang’s Restaurant was owned by Alfred’s family and EddieHin’s restaurant was owned by, of course, Eddie Hin. He also had alemonade / soft-drink company. There was a Chinese restaurantin Eddie Hin’s building on the ground floor. I don’t rememberthe name of the restaurant. There was a small milk bar there atthe entrance to the restaurant. Many Fijian ladies were workingthere. This restaurant was open from the mid-1970s to the early-1980s. It may even have existed as far back as the 1960s. I usedto go there sometimes when I was a young schoolboy at DrasaAvenue School. (I left Drasa Avenue School in 1975.) I wouldhave a milkshake there for 20 cents. You could sit inside the shopand have a milkshake. There was another milkshake restaurantowned by a Gujarati family called S.B. Maharaj. It was locatednear the Crown Theater, opposite the hockey grounds. I wouldmeet with other schoolchildren there to have a milkshake. IfI had 20 cents spare, I would stop there after school to have amilkshake with other Drasa Avenue schoolchildren. Today thatmilkshake would cost $3 or more. The milkshake glass was verytall and very wide (perhaps nine inches by four inches). If I had40 cents, I would have two. It would take until dinner to finishthe two milkshakes. I used to enjoy sipping them very slowly.Things back then were very cheap.
Other nightclubs opened and closed but they did not havethe longevity of the four clubs I have mentioned plus GalaxyNightclub. At one time there was a lack of nightlife in Lautoka.This was during the mid-1980s. The Sport and Social Club closedaround 13 years ago. Before these nightclubs closed people fromas far away as Ba, Tavua, and Vatukoula would come down toLautoka because it was a city. They would enjoy the nightlifeand spend the night there. That same crowd from the 1980sthen gravitated to Nadi because Lautoka’s nightlife had died.By this time, I also had moved to Nadi. The crowd would travelfrom Tavua to as far away as Nadi just to enjoy the nightlife.By that time (late-1980s) the tourism industry in Nadi hadjust started to boom. Lautoka now has a lot of nightlife again.The community has changed its approach to life. People havebecome friendlier amongst themselves. The present nightclubat Lautoka Hotel (now called Hunter’s Inn) opened sometimeduring the early-1980s. It is called the Qara Vatu (in English: TheTomb). I remember going there. It was a different style to theother nightclubs. It had a different atmosphere as it appearedthat you were really in a stone cave. There were lights, music,and a bar. We used to frequent this place only when we hadmoney. Now the place is for anybody; before it was mostly forthe young (indigenous Fijian) crowd from the nearby villagesand communities. They all respected each other until it startedgetting a bit rowdy. My memory is strongest of the places I wentto when I was very young which includes neither the Galaxy northe Tomb.
There was also a nightclub which opened up in the NamoliIndustrial Area (at the back of Namoli Village and close to thesea). This nightclub was also an attraction but unfortunately itdid not last for long. This place was frequented mostly by thevillagers and the other (indigenous) Fijians. It only lasted foraround four or five years. It was great to have a night out therebecause you had a view of Bekana Island and the lights of theLautoka Wharf; and you had the breeze. It was owned by a local.I do remember that beer was cheap there. I had a lot of friendsthere as I grew up in Lautoka. I used to really enjoy the nightsthere. This nightclub was opened much later, around the mid-1990s. Sometimes I would visit because I would frequently goback and forth between Nadi and Lautoka. Since I grew up inNamoli Village I always retain a strong attachment to Lautoka. Ihave my mother’s family residing there too.
Section Three - The Sea God Visits Namoli Village /Basketball at the Chinese School, by Henry Dyer Tuidraki.This section discusses the visit of the Sea God to Namoli Village,Lautoka City, Fiji Islands, as recalled by the ex-Nadi and Fijisoccer champion Henry Dyer Tuidraki in conversation withKieran James on April 23, 2015. There is also a discussion aboutthe places which traditional mythology and Christianity inhabitin the minds and hearts of the average Fijian villager today; andhow some but not all villagers attempt to integrate these twobelief systems, whilst others cling to Christianity and rejectearlier traditions.
The players who made it to the Fiji team from basketballcame from Namoli Village and most of them succeeded because of their early years at the Chinese School’s basketball court.(The Chinese School is located opposite Namoli Village on theother side of Namoli Avenue.) They played with the Chinesebasketball team from Lautoka. Then they formed a team of theirown. Players such as Apolosi Tora made it into the Fiji team.Of the ladies there was Kesaia and Mere Satala. They madethe team because the Chinese community was very small, andthe Chinese could not make up two teams for training. So, thevillage boys would make up the numbers for the second team.The village ladies got involved because of their interest but theChinese ladies did not participate. Therefore, the Chinese Schoolbasketball court made some impact into the lives of the Namoliyouth at one stage back then. Their interest was very high. Weused to stand on the side-lines near the seaside watching untilit was so dark, we could not see the ball. It was just a wire-fenceat that time. They let us in because we were also contributing toguarding the school. Now there is a brick wall there but then itwas just wire. We played until dark or until you could not see theball. If it was a full moon, I remember we played for much longer.I played just for fun but there were much better players thanme who understood the game more and had the rhythm for thegame. The first basketball team started way before the 1970s. Istarted using the court as a child in the early-1970s.
The Chinese School is one of the oldest schools in Lautoka.Back then for a (non-Indian) local to school in the Chinese Schoolit was an unusual event. We knew the culture of the Chineseeducation system there. Behind the Chinese School, where theminibus stand is located today (on Tukani Street), there werebushes and a wild guava plantation. Figure 6 shows two youngchildren inside the Chinese School compound in Lautoka Cityin more recent times. (The author’s daughter Nicoleta James ison the right.) The basketball court, which still exists today, islocated directly behind the cameraperson.
Fiji has a long history of the sea gods and as kids we knewabout this because, being brought up by the sea at NamoliVillage, there was this young woman (just a little older than us)who, at twilight of the evening, was possessed by the sea godwho appeared on land. He was the sea god of the low tide. Wehad to take this young woman to her family. They asked thesea god to please leave her alone. They did the Fijian ceremonyand asked the sea god: “Why are you giving the young childtrouble?” He answered back through the young woman saying:“You are all making too much noise at the place where I surfaced[i.e. the basketball court at the Chinese School].” I experiencedthis myself. The sea god’s name was Rateciyavi (meaning “thetwilight low tide.”) Twilight was the time when he came up tothe surface.
Straight after this incident the Chinese School became emptyat that time of the evening. The belief was really high, and sportstraining used to be affected. This continued until such a time assome stronger boys came through who said not to believe in itand to carry on training regardless. The girl was set free and thedevil disappeared. The sea god used to attract the women more.He used to choose the pretty women in particular as his victims.I remember that Namoli Village was full of belief because manystrange things occurred there.
Sometimes when you are a young teenager (aged 14 to 16years) you want to explore what life is all about. We used to walkaround the streets of Lautoka and we were open to all kinds ofmischief. However, belief in the ancestral gods was always therein the back of our minds.
The Fijians believe that, before Christianity came, they hadtheir own ancestral gods. Those gods had power and gave themstrength. The Christians today (the orthodox ones) treat theFijian ancestral gods as demons. However, the real native Taukeiperson (the hardcore villager) still believes that the ancestralgods exist even though he goes to church. He can mix them withthe Christian God in his understanding of the world. However,the (indigenous) Fijians who are really into Christian belief optto stay away from mixing the two gods. They can mix the two,but they opt not to because it is a very dangerous thing. Theyknow that it is a demon. While walking in the streets of Lautokawe would be talking about all the collective stories from ourindividual families. We would be talking about different episodesof the gods. It used to be really scary while walking the streetsof Lautoka. There were very few lights on the streets then. Whenwe reached the villages, we used to just split up and run to ourindividual houses. We were afraid that the demons were waitingfor us. Sometimes we would crash into the front door.
Talking about the ancestral gods, I had to spend one of myschool holidays with my grandma’s household at Tukuvuci. Thisis close to the Fiji Bitter beer factory. At this same time, as soonas it was dark, my grand-mum (the mother of the Ratudradrabrothers) would tell her grandchildren to run up a small hill witha kerosene lantern for 40 meters. She would tell us to run downwith the lantern again. She would say: “He’s there.” We wouldsay: “Who’s there?” She would tell us: “Look towards the hills”(Tavakubu Hills and beyond). Up above the pine trees we wouldsee a light floating over the ridges and the trees in the dark. Shewould tell us: “There, you see he is playing with us.” As a child,
I ran up and down that small hill and played with the ancestralgods. I don’t know whether the children today will see what Isaw then with my own eyes. We children living in that generationat that time were quite fortunate to see a lot of things from theancient past. We could see it with our eyes. I don’t know whetherpeople can see that today or possibly not because Christianityhas seeped into every house today. The upbringing in those dayswas very special. You were taught to obey and to be respectful.You were taught to dress to the occasion. You were taught toalways say the right things and not to be rude or offensive. Wewere taught to respect the older menfolk (the uncles) as theywere the next in line to take over in the house. The youngestuncle was respected in the same way that the eldest uncle was.The (indigenous) Fijian protocol was indeed something else.