Radrigai’s rise to the top

Dave Radrigai takes on All Whites midfielder Marco Rojas. Credit: OFC via Phototek

When Dave Radrigai was just a wee lad he would watch the boys of Navai Village playing football and grow impatient at the fact he was still to small to join them.

“When I was a child, I saw my village boys playing and automatically my legs became impatient,” the Lautoka midfielder recalled.

“I hesitated at first as I thought I would injure myself playing with older children. But then I had to start somewhere if I really wanted to involve myself in football – I ended up playing with them.”

That Radrigai had it in him to ignore his head and follow his heart has been his approach to football from that day forward.

“I started enjoying it and each and every day I played football with my friends back in the village,” he said.

The 30-year-old said his beginning in the game forged the platform for him to continuing growing and developing as a player.

After moving from Navai Village to Lautoka, Radrigai joined his primary and secondary school teams which only fueled his hunger for football.

“When my interest started growing, I started training in the school team and got selected.

“I never stepped back from football and my commitment during the training sessions got me into the secondary school team and from there I was selected to represent Lautoka youth,” he explained.

“While playing for the youth team, the coaching staff saw my talent and picked me to be part of the Lautoka district team.”

In 2009, when selected to feature for Lautoka against Ba in the National League, Radrigai realised football could take him places.

“There’s no football player in my family to give me advice so when I play for a team I  just listen closely to what the coaches say and that has taken me to where I am right now.”

He also believes the arrival of Frenchman Christophe Gamel to lead the national team has also had a big impact on his career.

“When Chris started coaching the national team and he was going around looking for talents, that was when I got the first call for national duties,” Radrigai relayed.

“Previously I went on trials with other coaches but they dropped me.”

The Fiji international is now indebted to Gamel for giving him his big break and he hopes to continue being part of the coach’s plans for the national team going forward.

“Our coach has taught us a lot of things even from the smallest tips, wherever possible.

“Playing among the senior players in the national team has helped me gain more experience.”

Radrigai and his Lautoka teammates have a major task ahead of them as they prepare to take on AS Dragon in Tahiti for the OFC Champions League Quarter Finals this weekend, and the midfielder believes the close knit nature of the squad is going to help them.

In particular, Radrigai forms a deadly combination with Kavaia Rawaqa and he expects that to once again show come Saturday’s match.

“It’s all about talking on the field, knowing each other, how we play and that’s how we’ve developed a strong combination,” he explained.

Lautoka will play AS Dragon at Stade Pater in Papeete, Tahiti on Saturday 7 April with kick off scheduled for 8pm, local time. The match will be played on Sunday 8 April at 6pm in Fiji.

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