The majority of Ba defender Simione Nabenu’s family are based in New Zealand but there’s a good reason the 19-year-old hasn’t yet followed them.
“When my father moved to New Zealand he left me in Fiji. He wants me to come to New Zealand and I told him I’ll try my best, but for now it’s good for me to stay in Fiji,” Nabenu said.
“I stay together with my grandparents. Last month one of my them passed away and so I think I will stay in Fiji and look after my grandparents, give them something back in return.”
It’s clear the former Fiji youth international has strong values which are serving him well as he makes his second appearance for Ba in the OFC Champions League this year.
Nabenu made his debut in Oceania’s premier international club competition in 2019, appearing in all four of Ba’s matches including the 2-1 quarter final loss to eventual champions Hienghene Sport.
While incredibly excited to be back with the Men in Black for another campaign, if there’s one thing he’s disappointed by it’s the fact his grandparents can’t watch him play.
“They’re big supporters for me because every time I go and play in Fiji they come and support me,” he said.
“They won’t miss any chance to watch me play, but coming over here to Tahiti it’s difficult for them to watch. But they are still remembering me in their prayers. They still think of me as a small child, even if I’m this big age.”
With one match ticked off and two to go, Nabenu is feeling the pressure to perform.
“I find it very hard because over here it’s fast-paced. But it’s a good experience for me too, getting to this level.”
Fortunately, the baby of the squad has plenty of experienced hands to guide him through.
“The experienced players have taught me a lot of things, they’re not treating me like a small brother. They told me: ‘no one is younger, no one is older, we are all just equal’, I was so happy when they said that to me.”
Further adding to the pressure is the arrival of the new Fiji national team coach Flemming Serritslev, who is scoping out the talent ahead of the OFC Nations Cup 2020 in June.
“I’ll try to give my best and will try to represent the nation. Now everybody is fighting to go in the national team so I will give my best and show them what I have.”
Nabenu and his Ba teammates will be back in action tomorrow when they take on Samoa club champions Lupe Ole Soaga in their must-win Group D encounter.