Salesh Kumar: Fijian football must move forward

One of Fiji’s most famous footballers has given his views on his career and the development of football in his country – it is always very important to hear the experiences of those who have been successful in the sport. Salesh Kumar, a Fijian international who has played in New Zealand for most of his career, has achieved many successes: The midfielder is a rare example of a player who has represented ‘both red and blue sides‘ of Auckland – Waitakere United and Auckland City – the local city derby. The historic player won the New Zealand national league twice and the OFC Champions League once – now in the final stages of his football career, plyaing in the NRFL Lotto Division 2 for Onehunga Mangere’s side, Kumar shared his thoughts on his successful career and what he sees on the horizon for Fijian football.

Salesh starting sharing his thoughts about this time in both Auckland football giants: “My time playing for Auckland and Waitakere was great. I enjoyed it – a different environment was a new challenge for me,” stated the now 38-year-old player, “the structure from Fiji in comparison to New Zealand is very different – the coaches, resources and attitude of players especiallyI think it is a matter of culture and mentality,” explained Salesh Kumar.

Kumar (left) representing Auckland City against Waitakere in 2008

The experienced player gives a suggestion to what can be done to decrease the gap between Fijian football structure to New Zealand: “I think attaching/sending coaches to overseas football clubs and academies – especially Europe – for a year or two too see how things are done; once they see and live how professional coaches behave everything is going to change – cultural and mentality issues I mentioned,” says Kumar.

Kumar played 13 matches for the Bula Boys making his debut in 2003; since then the midfielder had the chance with various great footballers; one of them is Roy Krishna: “He is one of the best players ever of Oceania. It was great to see how he worked hard and achieved what he got now,” says a proud Kumar. Salesh and Roy played together in Fiji’s remarkable 2-0 win over New Zealand in 2008 – before that day, Fiji had last won New Zealand in 1988. The then 21-year-old prodigy Krishna scored a double and made history for his country.

Kumar (white) in 2004 OFC Nations Cup

Despite all his memories, Salesh Kumar is unhappy with the progression of football in his country: “The results can prove it, look to the last Pacific Games editions. Compare Fiji and Papua New Guinea, for example, how much they have improved in the last 15 years and how much Fiji had,” said Kumar, “But I still think they can compete, they are good“, added the veteran.

The 38-year-old is continuing his career and intends now like to pass on what he has learned from the game of around two decades of experience: “I wish to continue in the game, keep enjoying and help in the development of the young players,” said Kumar, “I would love to help the development of football in Fiji, althought I did not think about this possibility yet,” mentioned the Fijian football legend.

A well-known player like Salesh Kumar always has something to tell about his experiences. If the younger generation of football players can follow his steps, the future of Fijian football will certainly be very bright.

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