In memory of Taito Bula

Former national and Ba striker Taito Bula. Picture: FIJI FA MEDIA

Tributes poured on social media for former Fiji and Ba team striker Taito Bula, who died at his home at Nailaga in Ba at the age of 53.

Bula, who made his debut for Ba in 1989, retired from playing competitive football, but he was involved heavily in the development of football at club level.

Bula coached the Nailaga FC side, which also featured in the National Club Championship.

He was a feared and lethal striker at the height of his football career, and his speed and the ability to dribble opponents was admired by fans.

Bula did not hesitate to take shots, and his powerful and aggressive approach drove fear in defenders.

His power-packed shots often found the back of the net.

Furthermore, Bula’s passion, spirit and the ‘never-say-die attitude’ was something that made him stand out.

When the Ba team used to play at Subrail Park, we would wait for Fiji’s prolific striker to appear in the black jersey.

His approach was serious and he meant business.

Those days district pride was evident, and players played their hearts out for their respective clubs and districts.

Districts such as Ba and Labasa produced talented and skillful players who went on to don the national jumper.

Bula discovered his football talents when he attended Kamil Muslim College, and then he started playing for Nailaga FC, which was founded by his former Ba and national team star striker Akuila Rova.

Bula made his debut for Ba in 1981.

He came as a substitute for Ba against Nadroga during a league match. Prior to playing for Ba, Bula had showed his goal scoring abilities and touches when he played for the Ba youth team.

When he joined the Ba football side then, he rubbed shoulders against some of the best players in Fiji at that time.

These stars included the Delai brothers- Lote and Meli, Akuila Rova, Teti Vosa, Epeli Rokoqica, Arif Azam, Iosefo Vosaboto, Allen Jesoni, Shiu Sami, Lorima Batirerega, Saula Waqanicakau, Valerio Nasema, Arjun Pillay and his strike partner Ravuama Madigi.

During those days players were paid little, but they gave everything during training.

I remember Savusavu back then.

The players from the Hidden Paradise were a force to reckon with, and under the leadership of the late Surendra Rama, they won numerous IDC titles in the senior grade.

They were not paid, but it was the greatest feeling to wear the district jumper.

When they played, fans rallied behind them.

Club games attracted a huge crowd.

District pride was everywhere- in the fans, players and officials.

Bula was a member of the national football team that created history by winning its first South Pacific Games gold medal in Lae, Papua New Guinea.

The side was coached by the late Billy Singh and captained by former Nasinu and Labasa goalie Tagi Vonolagi.

Bula was physical and gutsy, and a true icon of Ba.

He was a nemesis for defenders in the league and local tournaments.

Bula won the Fiji Fact, Battle of the Giants, IDC and Champion vs Champion series with Ba.

He played for Ba for 10 years, and then donned the Lautoka outfit where he was joined by his former team mates Iosefo Vosaboto and Jope Namawa.

Bula was a legend.

His teammates looked up to him.

He was a ball hunter and finisher.

He has left behind many memories and scintillating goals for Ba and the national team.

He will be remembered for life.

I salute our top marksman, and I pray that his soul finds peace and solace!

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