Here's a nice piece of writing from a visitor to Labasa to see the Babasiga Lions at play. From Fiji Times a few week's ago.
Labasa's friendly magic!CULDEN KAMEA
Monday, March 17, 2008
I rose early last Saturday morning, excited by the clash later in the day between the two Vodafone-sponsored champions - Labasa and Ba, in the first of two games in the Pillay Garments Champion versus Champion Series.
I could see Subrail Park from the bathroom in my hotel suite at the majestic old lady of the friendly north; The Grand Eastern Hotel. The empty grandstands looked eerily quiet in the soft light of the early morning sunglow, but I sensed that this magical serenity would soon surrender to the searing heat of the white-hot northern sun leading up to kick-off at 2pm.
Labasa's heat is a suffocating heat. It tries to drown you in your own perspiration. It sucks the breath of life out of your lungs, leaving your throat parched and dry. At its worst, it can cause meltdown of body and mind.
It was going to be a scorcher of a game between the raiders from Ba and their friendly hosts Labasa and I would be one of the lucky six thousand sports fans to witness the clash.
But before that, let me tell you about the absolutely best curry duck in the whole of Vanua Levu!
In fact I had two beautiful meals of duck curry during my short stay in Labasa. The first was at breakfast on Saturday morning, where I was told by my good friend, Pradeep from Tabia that the secret lies in the masala; that special blend of spices and chili handed down over the generations from Mother India through her daughters in the dusky light of kitchen fires. Thank you Imran and Jermima, your special duck curry masala was the best!
How Pradeep knows about the secret of masala I'm not sure, but I guess since we men know everything, he must be right!
Anyway, later at lunch I had duck curry made by Hamida and her masala was just magical. (Memo to me: Must get Tongan bride on masala mixing course at USP).
One can't visit Labasa and write about it without mentioning the huge crab and fresh fish so here goes!
The duck curry breakfast set me off on a trot following the rest of the tourists from Suva armed with fistful of dollars to attack the re-sellers, posing as fisherman on the banks of the river, which snakes around, but often pours through and floods Labasa town.
We were easy marks; taller, bigger to a man, decked out in the latest brands, flush with cash! They saw us coming and held their nerves.
The standoff was over in a minute, because while we paused the locals around us just kept buying up the best fresh fish and biggest crabs that I had seen in a long time! We had to move and we did: Within minutes the tourists from Suva had done the capitol city proud, snapping up bundles of fish of all shapes, colours and sizes, their eyes bulging-fresh out of their sockets. Long strings of gigantic crabs were next on our feeding frenzy. I bought my lot off a FBI (Fiji Born Indian) man called "Dalo" who I would meet again and hug later at the football such is the magic of Labasa!
It was all over in a sweaty, frantic burst of Super 14-like rugby action of wave-after-wave of turnover of possession - our cash for their possessions until they had all our cash and we had their possessions! In the end, everyone was smiling the re-sellers posing as fishermen home from the sea, the tourists from Suva with crabs and fish dripping from their arms and the curious bystanders who all suspected that somehow I was world famous! Well that's what I suspected that they suspected anyway!
We disengaged and retreated to the air conditioned cleavage of the grand old lady.
The block around Subrail Park was a tangled mess of a junkyard with cars, trucks, tractors and 4WDs strewn all over the place.
My good mate Satish double-parked on the main road right behind the main grandstand. We were running a little late but hey we were VIPs from Suva with reserved VIP grandstand seats, specially roped off and guarded for us. Yeah right.
When we finally made it into the arena, the game was already underway with the MiB (Men in Black) from Ba hard on attack. Did they say they expected a crowd of six thousand today? Well there must have been about five thousand of them sardined into my VIP grandstand area and they were mean looking cane farmer types - tough as nails. We glared at each other momentarily. Damn why didn't the NLTB just renew their land leases? OK guys you win. You stay seated in my VIP grandstand seat and I'll sit here on the ground behind the Labasa reserves bench with Dalo the crab seller.
The MiB were so confident, so strong, so purposeful in their play. Everything they did was forceful. They were unfazed by the crowd and they were so fast.
The Labasa boys seemed physically smaller, tentative, frail-almost. They lacked cohesion and struggled to maintain possession and so unable to apply any real pressure.
Ba on the other hand forced corner after corner and had a scorcher of a 40 metre shot at goal by Shameel desperately tipped over the crossbar by the Labasa goalkeeper.
Labasa could only mount long-range counter-attacks off scraps of possession. Still, they forced the Ba keeper off his line a couple of times and also made him work to keep a clean sheet with a couple of good saves.
It was well after 3pm that the referee blew for halftime. So much action, so little time, the pace was a killer. Who would crack first?
Dalo the crab seller shook my hand then without a sideways glance at the security guard slipped over the fence and joined the Labasa Team seated in a circle on the ground plotting their 2nd half strategies. Dalo put in his two cents worth before returning to my side saying, "Don't worry boss, Labasa will win"!
Ten minutes later, Labasa Captain Pita Baleitoga slotted home the winner and as they say in Bollywood, the rest is history!
Dalo the crab seller and I jumped for joy and hugged like long lost brothers!
Labasa hung on to win 1 - 0 with the rematch in Ba in early April.