Four years is a long time to wait for a chance at redemption.
This year’s OFC Champions League gives Lautoka striker Samuela Drudru a chance to put behind him a moment of immaturity that left him suspended and an opponent badly injured.
Making his Champions League debut for Nadi in the 2014 edition of Oceania’s top club competition, Drudru was red carded in their first group game after committing a horror tackle on Angel Berlanga that left the Auckland City FC player with a broken leg and facing a long spell on the side lines.
Suspension for the rest of Lautoka’s campaign was punishment enough for the striker but says watching a fellow player stretchered off the field only added to his regret.
The Fijian marksman said he did not deliberately meant to hurt the opponent but his immaturity at the time led to a loss in concentration.
“I really didn’t mean to go that harsh as I went to the ball to tackle but I collided on his ankle,” Drudru said.
“I always regret that incident back in 2014 when I first played in the Champions League but I have left it behind and moved forward now.”
‘But it taught me a great lesson,” he added.
“Well I am back with a mission now and would like to gain something from this championship.”
Drudru said playing in the OFC Champions League was something very different from playing at home.
“Here the level of competition is very high and very competitive. We need to be very smart and cool in playing some top clubs,” Drudru said.
Back in 2010, Drudru was one of the best strikers in Fiji scoring the lion share of the goals for his Suva team before switching to Nadi and then to Lautoka.
Before the tournament he said his aims were to prove himself and to help his team progress beyond the group stages, a goal happily ticked off in Lautoka’s first two games.
Drudru had a hand in Lautoka’s first goal against Madang FC on Sunday when he neatly walked into the penalty box beating the Madang defence and crossing the ball to Benjamin Totori.
The Nadroga native was then the hero for the Kamal Swamy-coached side with two second half goals to clinch a come-from-behind victory over AS Venus on match day two and earn a spot for the Fijian champions in the quarterfinals.
The winner came in stoppage time with the game hanging in the balance but Drudru said he was always confident of scoring the goals for Blues.
“I was very much determined to score the goal and give back to my hardworking officials and teammates what they deserved.”
Lautoka now have a chance to claim home advantage in the quarterfinals should they Auckland City on Saturday in the Group C finale but with the defending champions in rampant form so far it could be Drudru’s toughest task yet.