As families in Fiji continue to grapple with the second round of the Covid outbreak, the Fiji Football Association has come to the rescue of its players.
Fiji now has more than 656 active Covid cases in the community, and lockdowns mean more people have been laid off, leaving hundreds struggling to make ends meet.
Community groups and businesses in New Zealand have come together to raise funds and help families in need in the island nation.
Mohammed Yusuf is the chairman of the board of the Fiji Football Association.
More than 600 soccer players will receive food rations for at least a month starting this week, Fiji FA President Rajesh Patel announced earlier this week.
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“A rigorous survey was conducted to identify the footballers whose livelihoods have not been affected by football activities since the end of April,” said Patel.
The President of the Fiji Football Association, right, pictured at a presentation in New Zealand in 2019.
“We will only help the players who are fully committed and who rely on football as their only income.”
Fiji FA executive director Mohammed Yusuf would cover rationing players in all divisions, men and women.
“We have identified savings and now we are aligning those savings to support full-time footballers,” Yusuf told Radio Tarana.
“We provided these players with food rations for four weeks, this is our first induction covering all divisions.”
President Patel said the vice president and vice chairman of the finance committee, Aiyaz Musa, would lead the distribution in the western division with the assistance of Naziah Ali-Krishna and Jitendra Kumar.
The distribution of the southern division is directed by the four board members – Ravin Swamy, Jitendra Reddy, Yogeshwar Singh and Susan Wise.
“All of these distributions are being carried out under very strict Covid-19 security protocols and we will seek police assistance in carrying out this project,” said Patel.
The Fiji Association has teamed up with one of its sponsors, Punjas, to introduce the ration.
The rollout started this week with the eight Digicel Premier League districts and the six Digicel Women’s Super League districts will receive rations.
This will be followed by all of the Viti Levu Senior Men and Senior Women teams next week.
“We will also support the Vanua Levu men’s and women’s teams, but with a completely different package,” said Patel.
“The competitions in Vanua Levu had not yet started when the second wave of this pandemic hit us in mid-April, so we will be reviewing last year’s records to identify the committed footballers who will be supported.
“We are also aware of the impact of the two tropical cyclones that hit Vanua Levu among the football communities and our two North Vice Presidents – Edwin Chand and Girja Prasad – will oversee the northern phase for the next two to three weeks.”
Distribution details will be announced later.