Football is running through the veins of Ba FC’s veteran captain Malakai Tiwa ever since he has discovered the game as a child.
Born and raised in Fiji’s main footballing centre and the home of the country’s most successful club, Tiwa says throughout his entire life he felt a strong passion for the game.
“I’ve grown up with football, as a child most of my friends in primary school all played football, that was he only sport they played and I just hung around with them and that was the start.
“Coming from my background we didn’t have much, not even shoes but we had football and the love for the game,” he remembered.
The 32-year old has joined his hometown club in 2005 which he says was a dream come true.
“When I received the call straight out of high school I answered immediately, I never wanted to play for another district, I like the style of football Ba play and I have been calling Ba FC my home since high school.
Tiwa has vast experience at both international and Oceania level with 19 games and seven goals for the national team, ten OFC Champion League campaigns and a stint with 2009-10 champions Hekari United from Papua New Guinea.
Hekari was the only other club Tiwa has ever played for and he says his participation at the Club World Cup Championship still ranks as one of his career highlights, alongside his winning goal for Ba defeating the Indian national team in 2005.
“When I scored that goal for Ba against India, it was an amazing moment, I was so happy that we could build a competitive team which can beat an international team,’ he said.
Tiwa says the Champion League brings the best out of Pacific Island footballers and captaining the current Ba FC side which includes eight debutants at this level carries a lot of responsibility as well as privilege and honour.
“I’ve never thought Ba FC would choose me to lead our team at this OFC champions League and I’m thankful to them to allow me to captain the team and some of the young boys who played their hearts out in the first game.
“The expectations from Ba fans are always high, they have high standards and they don’t take defeats lightly and I’m proud and thankful to represent such a great club like Ba FC,” Tiwa said.
Despite a 2-0 defeat to defending champions Team Wellington, Tiwa believes Ba FC have every chance to qualify for the next stage of Oceania’s premier club football competition.
“The result didn’t come our way but I hope that will change in the second match, so we can make it in the knockout stage.
“We are here to win, both the second and third game we want to get through to the last 8,” the Ba FC captain insisted.