Fiji’s men’s and women’s national leagues are set to get underway this weekend with a host of exciting matches.
Suva are the defending champions of the men’s Premier League and coach Babs Khan acknowledged it would be a tough ask to repeat the dose in 2021.
“We need to work very hard this season to defend the title as all the teams have strengthened their side in the new season,” he said.
“We have to put our focus in every match and to take each game as it comes. The players will need to follow the gameplan in every game.”
Like most teams, Suva have experienced some player turnover and will welcome utility Mohammed Ramzan, striker Shazil Ali and midfielder Merrill Nand, while defender Waisake Navunigasau has made a return to the club.
“All these players will bring more depth and competition amongst the players for a position in the starting lineup,” Khan said.
These new additions will help balance the departures of striker Sairusi Nalaubu and midfielder Madhwan Goundar, while the loss of national team goalkeeper Beniamino Mateinaqara to Lautoka FC will put pressure on Suva’s young glovemen.
Outside of Khan, many of the teams in the competition will have new coaches this season; read more about the new mentors here.
Suva will open their campaign on Sunday when they host Rewa at ANZ Stadium.
The first match of the season will take place on Saturday when Labasa FC meet Ba FC at Subrail Park in Labasa.
Labasa will start the season with plenty of confidence after they beat Suva in the Champion vs Champion series recently.
The other two games of the round will be played on Sunday and the newly-promoted Nadroga FC will tackle Nadi at Lawaqa Park in Sigatoka and Lautoka will host Navua FC at Churchill Park.
Fiji FA Women’s Super League
Meanwhile, Fiji’s national women’s team coach Marika Rodu is looking forward to seeing the Women’s Super League get underway.
Six teams will contest the new competition that will be played across a double round-robin format.
Many of the matches will be played as doubleheaders before matches in the men’s national league.
On Saturday, Labasa and Ba will open the competition before two matches are set to take place on Sunday, including Nadroga v Suva at Lawaqa Park and Tailevu Naitasiri v Rewa at ANZ Stadium.
“The whole idea is to take a step up from our previous competition format and to have all the elite teams competing among themselves to bring more competition within women’s football,” Rodu said.
The coach said he wanted his players to work on their consistency during the competition as they look forward to having the opportunity to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.
The start of this league has also come at an exciting time for women’s football in Fiji following the news that Trina Davis has become the first Fijian to sign a professional contract after she linked with Israel’s ASA Tel Aviv during the week.
Davis is based in the US but qualified to represent Fiji through her mother and Rodu said her journey would provide inspiration for others.
“That means encouragement to the girls here locally to be able to continue to a level where they can get into a pro contract.”