For Roy Krishna, it wasn't a matter of if but when he was going to leave the Wellington Phoenix.

In doing so this week, Krishna broke from the mould of the perennial Fijian nice guy and made his family's future the priority.

Yes, that means the 31-year-old has fallen foul of the offside trap in putting self before the collective but, most certainly, he did not go about it in the eyebrow-raising way Australian coach Mark Rudan had.

Born in the humble sugar-milling town of Labasa, the striker would have learned from his parents, Sarita and Bal Krishna, at an early age the need to show loyalty not just to family but to the community, schools, employers and the national and a fiercely proud district football teams.

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I can relate to how difficult it must have been to leave a tropical climate to venture to New Zealand, where the footballing landscape must have felt like winter all year round.

Pushed from pillar to post on the park in plying his career here, Krishna eventually became hard to ignore not only because of his goal-scoring prowess but also his vision and ability to thread passes.

Early last year he came under scrutiny from the Yellow Fever fans as an artful dodger, after a hamstring injury prevented him from taking the field. The insinuation was, reportedly, that Krishna was wagging game time because a clause in his contract stipulated if he played 15 matches that season he would activate a condition that would have tied him to the club for another summer.

Of course, there was the small matter of a Major League Soccer team, Colorado Rapids, offering him a contract in the United States.

With that sort of carry on, many would have knocked off the sod from their boots, got a haircut and put their feelers out for a nine-to-five job. But not a tenacious Krishna, who kept faith in his instincts.

Consequently, greatness is born out of those sort of sacrifices, not selfishness.

That sort of selflessness was evident even in his game — he would often tap the ball to someone else to share the glory when the goalmouth beckoned from point-blank range.

If anything that trait is considered a shortcoming for foragers, whose coaches scout for those who show selfishness when trying to find the net.

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For the record, any suggestions he was suspect as a penalty-kick merchant shows how little some people know the game. Not too many other pretty boys during his time were putting their hand up to take penalty kicks. It's too easy nowadays to watch footage to study penalty takers' methods and some of the world's best players have been found out.

Roy Krishna's signature on this fan's placard of pleas was never a done deal but he certainly didn't leave Wellington Phoenix as unceremoniously coach Mark Rudan did. Photo/Photosport
Roy Krishna's signature on this fan's placard of pleas was never a done deal but he certainly didn't leave Wellington Phoenix as unceremoniously coach Mark Rudan did. Photo/Photosport

But I digress. Selfishness is an attribute and need not necessarily be detrimental when sports people approach the crossroads of their career.

Krishna is a multi-talented footballer who added immense value to the Wellington A-League franchise.

In the twilight years of his career, he deserves the right to gauge his worth at the higher echelons. It's cruel to expect someone of his calibre to continue baby-sitting players and, let's face it, more often than not, work alongside inept imports.

It will be interesting to see how he fares with adroit players around him. He is prone to becoming a little star struck — it comes with a Pacific Island upbringing — although my guess is winning the Johnny Warren Medal as the best player in the A-League as well as the player of the year award will only reinforce his sense of self-belief and ease him gently into the mainstream overseas.

Regrettably, the Phoenix dangling sweeteners now is too little, too late. Suffice it to say Krishna isn't showing a lack of gratitude in not accepting club general manager David Dome's biggest offer to a franchise player or a scholarship named after him for aspiring players from the Pacific Islands.

Island talent is a subject close to Krishna's heart, something he championed in accepting his awards to self-effacingly declare there were potentially more talented players than him.

The tragedy, of course, is it took so long for coaches and selectors in this country to recognise his worth.

Former Black Cap batsman Mathew Sinclair once said one of his biggest regrets was not playing for other major association teams in the face of playing the loyalty card to the Central Districts Stags because it had limited his scope to market his talent.

It's never easy for players of Krishna's ilk to step outside their comfort zone — moving from Fiji to New Zealand in itself was the big OE.

No doubt he's a late bloomer, so venturing to South Korea or any other such country will test his resolve.

Sweetners from Wellington Phoenix general manager David Dome were a noble gesture but they came too little, too late for Roy Krishna. Photo/Photosport
Sweetners from Wellington Phoenix general manager David Dome were a noble gesture but they came too little, too late for Roy Krishna. Photo/Photosport

Here's the irony, though. New Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay isn't sitting back. He has reportedly started identifying talent, contacting his agents in Europe.

Say what? With countless under-20 players showcasing their talent with giant-killing performances at the men's Fifa Under-20 World Cup in Poland?

Exposing budding talent — as evident through Sarpreet Singh and Liberato Cacace among the under-20 internationals — now is imperative as opposed to "when the time is right".

The first port of call should be the Ole Academy type of reservoirs on the franchise's
doorsteps.

Adopting an "if you're good enough, you're old enough" edict should stop any politicking from mentors and administrators in their tracks.

As good as Krishna is, finding a replacement of his mould isn't the panacea to Phoenix's viability. It's the ability of mentors, such as Ernie Merrick and Rudan, to tinker success with the voracious appetite for development that has accentuated Phoenix's acumen.

I wonder if all those coaches who were scouting big No 10s to put long balls through to realise how myopic their understanding of the game is and, more importantly, have changed their philosophies, not just attitudes, to recruiting.