The kick off of Fiji’s Digicel Premier League this month provides a perfect platform for Fiji to ensure they hit the ground running at next month’s FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ OFC preliminary competition, according to midfielder Setareki Hughes. 

With club football impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the return to play for the new season on February 13 will provide some much needed game time for the ‘Bula Boys’ 24-man squad, which was named this week.

Hughes, who previously represented Fiji at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015, 2016 Rio Olympics and Pacific Games in 2019, said it was great timing from his point of view.

“When the Digicel Premier League started back up I had to work even harder to get back to where I was before the pandemic,” Hughes said.

“Personally it really helped me a lot with my preparation, I managed to keep my eyes fixed on the prize of representing my country in Qatar.

“We’re trying to win it and reach our ultimate team goal of qualifying for a FIFA World Cup which is every Fijian player’s dream, but our main focus is winning our first match against New Caledonia.”

Included in the group named by Flemming Serrtislev is skipper Roy Krishna, who is the only non-Fiji based player named to travel to Qatar.

Since the last time he represented Fiji in World Cup qualifying, Krishna has won both the A-League and Indian Super League’s player of the year awards and in the 2020-21 finished first equal in both goals scored and assists in India’s premier competition.

“Krishna is the best finisher (in the squad), making him extremely important in regards to the success of our team,” Serrtislev said.

“Him alongside our striker Sairusi Nailabul and central midfielder Tevita Waranaivalu are great leaders and the backbone of our team.

“Our goalkeeper Beniamino Mateinaqara is also excellent and will have an important role in directing our defence.”

Fiji kick off their Group B campaign on March 18 against New Caledonia, followed by matches against New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.