Editorial comment – Keeping soccer clean

Ba’s Sumeet Goundar and Suva’s Madhvan Goundar contest an aerial ball during their match in the Vodafone Premier League at Fiji Football Academy ground in Ba. Picture: SUPPLIED

The revelation by the Fiji Football Association that it has budgeted $25,000 to fight drugs in sports is commendable.

Fiji soccer’s governing body wants to create drug free ambassadors with educational programs yearly.

The revelation comes in the wake of confirmation that the first two days were pretty encouraging with only one test returning positive from the 48 conducted randomly at the Battle of the Giants tournament in Lautoka.

Fiji FA chief executive officer Mohammed Yusuf said they had started the program of turning some of the players who had been caught with drugs before, and who had gone into rehabilitation, to become ambassadors for drugs-free sport.

“The overall investment in this drug testing and rehabilitation program is costing us around $25,000,” Yusuf said.

The investment, he said, was designed to educate young players to get away from the bad habit as this will not only help the sport but also Fiji.

“It will help the youths and help our country by following what the Government is doing to clamp down on drug abuse.

“Now that we have heard that it is going into schools, our message is loud and clear, that we want players who are clean to play football.

“One player tested positive for marijuana. He is a second-time offender so there is an automatic ruling for that. He will be fined $500 and the district is fined $500. The player is also suspended for the next three years.

“We have a report from our compliance committee that the player fell sick after the game and the district had to rush him to hospital.

“But then our team followed him to the hospital where he was organised to give his sample. He tested positive with the result being strong.”

Yusuf said the Fiji FA was ready to work with relevant authorities to try and nip the drug problem in the bud.

“We will oblige with the data we have to give to them as we want to send a very strong message in this regard to everyone,” he said.

Players were randomly tested for marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine.

The revelation of this move to keep soccer clean is a welcome change.

The fact that such drugs are now widely available, especially marijuana and methamphetamine means we cannot rest on our laurels any more.

Making this part of the monitoring process in soccer ensures our game is clean.

The illegal trade of these drugs must not have an impact on organised sporting events.

We acknowledge the direction taken by the Fiji FA and urge players to be honest to their calling.

Fans expect soccer players to be fit, and skilful enough to display top level soccer on the field.

They expect their teams to have a clean sheet when it comes to drug usage.

That means players are held accountable for their actions.

We wish all the teams that have managed to advance through to the semi-finals next weekend the very best.

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