The Honourable Members of Parliament;

The Chief Executive Officer of Vision Groups and Owners of Courts Fiji Limited, Mr P.L. Munasighe;

President Fiji Football Association and FIFA Council Member, Mr Rajesh Patel;

Board Members of Fiji Football Association;

Players of all Participating Teams;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.

It is my pleasure to join you at this year’s Courts IDC Tournament. It is a joy to see the passion of these players and the energy of this crowd –– I see a lot of red flags this evening –– and it is all thanks to the commitment of our Organisers to make this Tournament possible. Fiji is a sporting nation. We are a football nation. We see that here and now.

I love football for its action and excitement. I love football for what it means to young people who hold athletes among their greatest role models – including several of my grandchildren. And I love football and all sport in Fiji for what it provides the nation. Win or lose – we are in it together. That is the very basis of national unity.

I firmly believe that Fiji can be a global football force. That effort does not begin in the halls of FIFA World Headquarters –– it begins with you: The footballers and fans who love this game. Your effort, your energy, and the young people you inspire to take this sport up and follow your lead.

The Government I lead is making the investments you need to take this sport to greater heights.

Let me congratulate our men’s Under-19s side for making it all the way to the Oceania Football Confederation Finals and qualifying for next year’s under-20s World Cup. That achievement speaks volumes to the drive and discipline of the players –– it also speaks to our steady cultivation of talent at the grassroots. We know we have fertile ground in Fiji for football excellence and we have made it our mission to transform sport into a more professional and profitable enterprise for the benefit of players most of all.

We have invested in our sporting infrastructure to make Fiji the beating heart of athletics in the Pacific. That vision is paying off –– not only in the form of higher premiums on our investments but in the quality of our athletes.

Starting from humble community pitches in Labasa, Ba, Nadroga, Rakiraki, Suva, and other areas, hundreds of our athletes, including our rugby and football players, have been recognized at the highest stages of sporting competitions around the world. Women are participating in sport in Fiji at a level we only dreamed of a generation ago. For decades, past governments wrongly treated sport like a men’s-only profession. We are finally breaking that bias by fully recognizing and supporting the contribution of women and girls in sports. Sporting women should be able to make their living doing what they love and excel at – every Fijian woman athlete has my firmest support of following their athletic ambition as far as it can carry them.

Today that journey brings us to the IDC Tournament. I want to give a special welcome to the Women’s Teams from Nadroga, Ba, Nadi, Nasinu, Rewa, Naitasiri, Suva and Labasa that are here to compete.

The IDC is one of Fiji’s great sporting triumphs. For 84 years it has provided a platform for Fijian football. As part of that history, I wish to congratulate Courts for 23 years of sponsorship of this Tournament. Thank you, CEO Munasighe and your Team.

In this year’s Super Premier Division we have the defending champions Labasa, the Digicel Premier League title winners Rewa, and some traditional football powerhouses in Ba and Lautoka in one pool while Host and Digicel Fiji FACT champion Suva is grouped with Nadi, Nadroga and Navua.

Tonight, Labasa will take on Rewa. I believe Labasa will be playing in tonight’s evening game, tomorrow’s evening game, and Friday’s evening game as well. I think our Organizers may be in on the fact that we have a lot of Labasa people in the Suva-Nausori corridor!

I understand that in the Premier Division, Tailevu Naitasiri will battle against Tavua and Nadogo while Nasinu will be up against Rakiraki and Seaqaqa. In the Senior Division, Bua, Savusavu, Dreketi, Taveuni, Northland Tailevu, and Lami will feature.

Good luck to you all. Thank you again to the Fiji Football Association, the Officials and Management at the district level who have worked so hard to give these players the chance to play. I know I speak for the nation when I say I can’t wait to follow along with the weekend of football here at HFC Stadium –– may the best team win!

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

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