Soccer: Fiji Indians seeking traction in cup clash

By Anendra Singh

Anyone who has ever travelled to a foreign land will tell you assimilating with the inhabitants isn't always a given.

While the language barrier can be a hurdle there are other factors that can trip you up in the process of integration.

Culture shock is a broad description of other intricate etiquette newcomers quite often have to overcome to find a modicum of rapport.

That's where sport can play a fundamental role because it becomes a common denominator regardless of myriad languages and social differences.

Consequently Fiji Indians in the North Island have been congregating for soccer tournaments in the past seven years.

"It's open to the public to watch, support and play if they want to," says co-organiser Rudra Naiker, of the Hawke's Bay team, who are hosting the one-day Fiji Cup tourney in Hastings this weekend.

Naiker and St John's College teacher Kranish Singh have the responsibility of ensuring everything will run smoothly when the six teams kick off from 8.30am at the Hawke's Bay Sports Regional Park fields on Saturday in the Fiji Cup tourney, which is one of several run in a year.

The tourney has lured teams from Palmerston North, New Plymouth, Wanganui, Masterton and an invited composite side from the Hastings Rovers and Hibernian clubs here.

"It's a good way to teach people soccer skills and to foster good relationships with people from other regions," says Naiker, a foreman who organises fruit-picking gangs.

The fruit pickers, who are predominantly Pacific Islanders, have been competing in the Bay club competition as a Hibs second division team in recent years.

The 40-year-old says the teams adopt names of cities and towns from Fiji. The Bay team, with captain Dilshad Gul, will sport red-and-white stripes of the sugarcane-growing Labasa town.

Wellington hosts the biggest of the tournaments, Fiji Fact, boasting nine teams.

The Fiji Cup, hosted in Palmerston twice and in its third year, is intended to be a vehicle for strengthening the code in the central region of North Island.

"It's also a great opportunity for our children to play, stay fit and healthy and mix with others, too," says Naiker, who has also entered a Flying Fijian team in the Western Rangers' summer soccer tourney at St Leonard's Park, Hastings.

While winning teams have hosted the cup tourney, he says they are consciously trying to share the honour in the hope it will be the catalyst for the growth of other social events.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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