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Best in the game

Zanzeer Singh
Saturday, November 11, 2017

IT is through athletics that John Monday became one of the best attacking football midfielders in the country.

He was part of the historic Fiji team that upset Australia 1-0 at Albert Park in Suva in 1977.

His origins are from England however John was born in Lautoka on April 5, 1952.

John's mother Sereana Bauluvu was from Voua Village in Cuvu, Sigatoka.

He studied at St Thomas Primary School reaching only up to Year 7.

At that time, Lautoka Muslim School was their biggest rival in football. However John was more into athletics than football.

He specialised in 50 metres and 100 metres.

His athletic ability allowed him to play hockey and football later.

"We played hockey on Saturdays and football on Sundays," Monday said.

He joined the Namoli Sports Club at the age of 17 and at that time the late SM Koya was the patron of the club.

The club had players such as the late George Farrell who was also a boxer.

"I used to play left back," Monday said.

"But because of my speed I could overlap so I went on to play at central midfield. Back in those days it was very difficult to get into the Lautoka team. Even all the other districts had A and B teams apart from the clubs.

"I used to fight for my position with Gopal Krishna. Namoli Sports had players such as Mike Tuilawa, Raphael Tuilawa, Gabby Tuilawa, Arthur Peters and Jack Peters.

"I got my biggest break when I was called up to represent Fiji West against a club side from Germany in early 70s."

Monday still cherishes his selection in the 1977 Fiji team which hosted Australia at Buckhurst Park on March 19, 1977.

The team was coached by John Lal and captained by George Koi.

It was the inaugural international friendly between the two teams. Jimmy Okete shocked the visitors with his 85th minute strike to hand Fiji a memorable and historical victory.

"I always called Lal, Momo (father)," Monday said.

"For the match we trained at a beach in Navua with water to our knee level.

"Lal was a strict coach. George was a military man and he was a great leader. The way he spoke, he just motivated us. He was one of the best captains.

"I played many games but the Australia game is what I always talk about. Australia was a professional outfit preparing for the World Cup.

"We were just amateurs. Jimmy Okete scored the goal and the school kids ran in and hugged us. This is only evident in rugby now.

"Never in our wildest dreams had we thought that we would beat Australia. However we were never afraid of Australia.

"George commanded us from the start. There was a big celebration after the win. I think we got paid some money. It was the first time.

"The late Jo Tubuna, Mike (Tuilawa) and I flew back from Nausori to Nadi in the plane. We were all drunk and even took a bottle beer on board.

"I cannot forget those days because you can't do all of that now."

Monday moved to Suva in the late 1970s and worked for the then Suva Travelodge.

He played for Civic and also represented Suva with players such as John Krishna Chotka.

Monday went to Australia and played for Launceston Juventus in Tasmania with the late Macha Vosuga.

"Macha was the highest goal scorer for the team at that time," he said.

Monday was part of the star-studded Lautoka team which won the Lloyd Farebrother trophy back to back in 1984 and 1985.

The side had players such as Sam Work, Jerry Ladawa, Wally Mausio, Epeli Kosa, Kelemedi Vosuga Cheetah and Niko Lilo.

Monday hung his boots after the victory.

Now retired, Monday has a small dalo plantation in Tomuka.

At the age of 65 years, Monday stays fit getting up at 5am every morning going for a one hour walk and then working on his farm.

Monday said during his playing days, players had to fight for their positions in the team.

"The standard was very high," he said.

"Each district had A and B teams apart from the clubs. There was a lot of passion for the sport. The players had to run to the ground to be part of training.

"Nowdays the players get travelling allowances or get picked up for training. The attitude has changed. It is something like spoon-feeding.

"Their dressing has changed. The fans look up to the players and they should get the same respect.

"Lautoka has a fan club which is looking after the player's welfare.

"This is very good but the players should not abuse anything. They should train hard. Lautoka Football Association has set the platform which other districts can follow.

"I was happy with the way Lautoka played against Ba in the IDC final in October. They made the former players many of whom were from overseas for the reunion happy."

Monday said he was always grateful to the Punjas' family for helping him out in his football career because of their link to his mother's village in Cuvu.

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