Why u20 Fiji international Zainal Ali’s debut is so important to high-flying Nadi FC

There is no denying Lautoka and Ba are the two best teams in Fiji at the moment.

Then there is Labasa, whose ambition to sign Christopher Wasasala is notable. Or even Rewa, who were incredibly busy in the transfer window in a bid to improve the team.

Competition for the top spots is fierce in Fiji, but one team has gone under the radar. And it is time to put that right.

Nadi FC – or the Green Machine as they are known – are top of the Fiji Premier League table after two games with a win and a draw.

They beat Ba Fc comfortably in the shock of the opening round and followed it up with a 0-0 draw with Rewa in the only game last week.

While they are one of two teams to have played two games, a win and a draw mean they are briefly at the top of Fijian football. They also have something else to shout about this year.

The Fiji transfer window was chaos. Iosefo Verevou, whose move from Suva to Rewa led to a six-match ban, a dramatic u-turn and a fine, encapsulates the frantic nature of the window. Players moved between clubs, deals fell through and the league was even suspended because of the uncertainty of it all.

In the midst of it all Nadi FC released a short statement. It read:

“Nadi have successfully managed to keep all its players when the transfer window closed today. Jacks Nadi President Javed Ahmed said his focus from the very beginning was always to keep its players happy and motivated. Star players such as Captain Vereti Dickson, Ilimotama Jese, Napolioni Qasevakatini, Rusiate Matereriga and William Valentine have all put pen to paper extending their contracts to 2021.”

Ahmed said several stars from the team were wanted in the window – and the likes of 24-year-old striker Qasevakatini will continue to do so – but they managed to convince the team to stay.

But that is not enough for Nadi, who have also focused on bringing through local youth players to bolster their established stars.

Fiji u20 midfielder Zainal Ali made his debut against Ba and performed well. The lanky youngster looks like he could be a future international and he could dominate the midfield for years to come.

Ahmed says others will follow Ali to the first team and the club’s focus will be to look after the welfare of the players as they make their first team debuts.
Once Lautoka, Labasa and Ba get their seasons up and running Nadi may struggle to stay top of the table. However, with a star-studded and settled squad the future is bright.

If Ali can establish himself in the first team, and he is followed by others, they could even carve a niche as the academy of Fiji football.

Fans of the Green Machine will be hoping Fiji’s bid to reach the 2022 World Cup will have plenty of players wearing the famous green shirts when the squads are named.

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