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 good evening to you all.
It is wonderful to see our footballers back playing in earnest. Even if we can’t have the Stadium full yet, we are lucky to be playing these games at all. Most places in the world, sports are not safe to play due to COVID-19, and fans are stuck at home watching replays and old highlights. But not in Fiji.
Here we are COVID-Contained, our people have their health, and we can safely welcome the Courts IDC Tournament alongside the celebrations of our 50th Anniversary of Independence as a nation. I’m proud to see every team competing as our FIJI50 logo stitched to their jerseys, and I would like to thank the Fiji Football Association for partnering with us to show our unity and pride as a nation as we mark Fiji’s 50th Birthday.
I’m told one of today’s matches may as well have been played in Subrail Park as we had so many fans here cheering on Labasa. Someone wagered you out-numbered the Navua fans 100 to one. It seems many of Suva’s residents have not forgotten their Northern roots.
But I’m sorry to see that home-field advantage was not quite enough to edge out a well-coached side from Navua.
Fiji has many distinctions, and the IDC is one of them. It is among the longest-running annual soccer tournaments in the world. We have held this Tournament every year since 1938—that’s 82 years, and we should be very proud.
The FIFA World Cup is a bit older, but it was suspended throughout the 1940s because of the war. This Tournament has been held every year since in 1938. It’s something we can all be proud of. And I especially want to recognize Courts for its generous support of this Tournament for the last 21 years.
I also want to thank the Nurses, the Doctors and the Members of our Disciplined Forces who helped us implement our strategy of COVID Containment. Their hard work and sacrifice has made this week possible.
Courts is the country’s largest sponsor of major tournaments, and their continuing partnership with the Fiji Football Association and sponsorship of other sporting events shows how one business can make a big difference in the lives of young people and give something of value to society. So thank you, Courts.
This year there are eight Premier Division teams and eight Senior Division teams. As I said earlier, they come from all over Fiji, so this is truly a national event.
And there is real prize money here for the top three finishers in each division, so we are going to be playing for more than just bragging rights and trophies.
I would also like to commend the Fiji FA for hosting the first-ever Women’s IDC along with the Courts IDC, and give a special thanks to Vodafone Fiji for sponsoring the tournament. We have some tremendous women athletes in this country, and it is important for the sports organizations and the business community to make a commitment to developing women’s sports.
For too long, we left women behind when it came to athletics because we thought of sports as a man’s endeavour.
Women athletes had to work harder and push harder to get the coaching, facilities and other support that they needed. But no more. I’m very pleased to see women’s teams here from Ba, Nadi, Nadroga, Suva, Nasinu, Rewa, Naitasiri and Labasa here to compete. Anyone who watches soccer from the elite level down knows that the women take no back seat to the men in the quality of their play. So I’m looking forward to seeing speed, quickness, power and fitness from the women this year.
But we are here to watch a soccer tournament, not to hear the Prime Minister go on.
And I want to watch the next game, so I will leave you with my best wishes for another IDC that shows the best of what our young athletes can do.
Please join me in wishing our Nation a very Happy 50th Birthday, and wishing our athletes the best of luck on the field.
Thank you to the Fiji Football Association, the Officials and Management at the district level who work so hard to give these players the chance to play, as well as our sponsors, coaches, and the fans who have made this year’s IDC Tournament possible. May the best team win!
Vinaka vakalevu – Thank you.