Every year around this time, Lautoka’s Praneel Naidu is reminded of what he is missing out on.
The 23-year-old lost his mum when he was seven years old and with Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday 13 May, this year he has something big to keep him distracted – the first leg of the OFC Champions League final.
“I lost my mum in 2002 when I was in class two,” Naidu recalled.
“Every year on Mother’s Day when the ads start running I get reminded of what I have lost and I just with my mum was here with me.”
Naidu said it has been a hard loss to overcome.
“I struggled a lot from my childhood days,” he said.
“But I salute my dad, Permal, who has been a pillar of strength and never made me feel the absence of my mum.”
One thing that has certainly helped when he needed a change of scenery or something to keep his mind off things, has been football.
Naidu’s career kicked off with Ba where he played from U-10 right through to senior level.
He joined Labasa in 2016 before joining his current club and OFC Champions League 2018 finalists Lautoka this season.
While he has been seen as a lucky charm, having taken out the Inter-District Championship with Ba, then Labasa and finally Lautoka over the past three years, luck hasn’t always shone on Naidu.
“When I was in the national U-20 squad preparing for the U-20 World Cup qualifiers I was dropped,” he says of his experience in camp back in 2014.
“At that time I was young and we used to be cheeky and sometimes ill-disciplined, and that could have cost me badly,” he continued.
“It was our coach, Master Ravinesh Kumar who talked to me and finally called me back into the squad.”
Naidu regards Kumar, the current Fiji FA technical director, as his football father.
“For me, from the time I started football and transitioning to the district level, it was all him (Kumar) who was pushing me forward.
“From the very beginning he had been looking after me, especially as I was coming from an unstable family background.
“For all the moves I’ve made, I always consulted him and took his advice on whether or not it was the correct move or not. All in all, he has been my father in football.”
Although still in the debut of what he hopes will be a long football career, Naidu has notched up many unforgettable memories.
“I cannot forget the moment when we qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup and I scored the winning goal in our final match against Solomons,” Naidu said.
“We were down by a goal and then Nickel Chand scored the equaliser before I got the winning goal through a free kick.
“I think I will never get that feeling again in my life.”
He has come close though.
Naidu’s goal at Lawson Tama Stadium against Marist sent his side into its first-ever OFC Champions League final.
Having secured their place in the final, Naidu is now hoping to play a similar role in that match and send a Fijian side to a FIFA World Cup for the second time.
And he will go out with at least one important person on his mind, his mum.
Naidu said overcoming obstacles in life, as on the football field, is possible with a bit of self-belief.
“Believe in yourself. If you do, you can overcome any obstacles in life.”