Football in the Island of Happiness

History is repeating itself – over the years the Thornleigh soccer club has been a part of a sporting tradition of trips to Fiji and this year’s no different.

Raj Mudaliar, one of the many thoughtful parents of the Under 16s Thornleigh team, has together with team manager Janina Much organized for this year’s group of 14 boys to play three matches in Fiji during an eight day trip.

Raj went there himself as a schoolboy to compete in 1991, and has played a big part in getting the ball rolling again this year. Keeping it in the family, his nephew Veeran Mudaliar went on last year’s trip to Fiji – so it’s only fitting that Raj’s son Brenden Maudaliar is taking part in this year’s one.

With the help of a few other volunteers the team heads off on September 22 to the island of happiness where they’ll play three matches against two Fijian Schools and the Fijian Soccer Academy Under 16s.

Known for its luxurious private islands, a diverse range of resorts and breathtaking surroundings, Fiji isn’t the worst place to lace up the boots and chuck on the shin pads. Although most of the boys will be eager to taste success and win all three games, it’s also essential that the team enjoys themselves and evidently has fun.

“It’s important for the boys to interact with kids their own age and learn a little bit more about Fijian life while they’re over there,” Raj said.

From going through primary and high school together and having developed a tight playing group, it’s good to see the team taking part in this extraordinary trip with their mates.

The mateships that have developed throughout the side have been a significant factor in the team’s rise to success. Winning last year’s minor premiership and grand final in Gladesville Hornsby Football Association helped the team move up to a tougher a division – but the move didn’t affect the boys at all, as the resilient group managed to have a bittersweet season by winning the minor premiership and only falling short on grand final day.

The boys have an opportunity to redeem this season’s grand final heartbreak in Fiji as they take on two regular Fijian schools, with the third match against a formidable outfit, the Fiji Football Association Southern Academy Under 16s.

“It won’t be a walk in the park,” said Raj, summing up the boys’ chances of success. “Due to the conditions being a lot warmer than Thornleigh, it’s going to be hard for the boys to adapt. But they’ve done extra training to prepare for the trip.”

It will be interesting to see how the boys get on, if they play with the same intent, and play for each other. I’m quietly confident that the bunch of mates from Thornleigh can leave an impact on a footy-loving nation like Fiji.

Who’s Brock Lyon?
The Monthly Chronicle is championing aspiring journalists and writers in our community, and this month our sports focus was written by budding sports reporter Brock Lyon.
“I’m in year 11 at school; when I leave school the plan is to become a sports journalist. Not only do I love sport, I’m really passionate about how it can bring a nation together. I play cricket, footy and I do a bit of boxing. Oh, and a bit of gaming. Playing my PS4 will probably be my downfall come HSC time. Anyway I’m just here to hopefully change your view on sports and understand that without sport, passion, culture and emotions wouldn’t be felt.”

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