From Football, to Techno, to Politics
From a humble beginning, former Rewa football defender Abdul Wahid now has the sporting world in his fingertips. Wahid, a telecommunication engineer by profession and now living in the United States said, he grew up in a big family.
“My father died when I was only seven years old, but that did not dampen my desire to learn and excel,” Wahid said.
“Having faith in God and in my ability I set out to become the best person in anything that I do.
“My family had always been the people around me. I respected them and spoke out if things were not right. I was known to be very outspoken and always stood up for injustice and favouritism.”
Wahid is always proud of the fact that he attended Lelean Memorial School in Davuilevu, Nausori, and was always one of the top three students.
“I also attended Rewa Secondary School and played for the school team while in Form 3. A year later I played for the Rewa B side.”
After attending Lelean, he went to New Zealand to further his education.
Wahid played left back and represented Rewa in 1980 after returning from New Zealand.
“I was a young kid playing alongside George Koi, Onnie Wong and Habib Buksh, who were in their prime. My interest was just to be with these players and learn from them,” he said.
Rewa coach Vilitate Lee gave Wahid his first break at Churchill Park when they played Lautoka.
“It was my first break into district level football which was not a pleasant one. The result was not the one that I expected and after the game the Rewa Football Association president, Mr Sultan Ali and coach Vilitate Lee parted ways.” Prior to that, Wahid helped form a football club which consisted of family members and friends in their neighbourhood.
The club was called St Christopher
and was not known compared to clubs like Dilkusha or Hot Rod in the Rewa Football competition. “We got our recognition in 1979 during the Muslim Inter District (IDC). The Nasinu team consisted of St Christopher players with names like Mohammed Salim and Abdul Kalam.
“After we won the IDC, the then Rewa Football Association president Abdul Rasheed, mentioned to the public that the team is a club from Rewa and this was the future of Rewa Football Association.
“We were quickly corralled into the Rewa team along with the likes of Abdul Manaan, George Pali, Vula Wate and the rest is history.” Wahid represented Rewa as they won the Southern Division Trophy at Ratu Cakobau Park, Nausori. His football career came to an abrupt end during the 1982 Interdistrict in Ba, where he copped a serious leg injury during their clash against Suva.
“It was during a tackle- I was sandwiched by Sylvester and I think Jigga. I was carried off the field and was airlifted to Suva with a split fracture on my ankle. This injury prevented me from continuing with my career.”
This did not deter Wahid as he turned his interest to coaching. “I coached the Rewa Youth side. The team had talented players like (Mohammed) Yusuf, who later played for the national team. I did a coaching programme under Rudy (Gutendorf) and managed to complete my certification.”
In 1985, Wahid announced his retirement from district level football and migrated to the United States and focused on his career as a telecommunication engineer. “Today, I’ve my own business and I also do consultation. Also, in this year’s general election in USA, I’m running for Mayor in the City of Tracy. This is the first time a Fiji resident is sitting on a ticket for a Mayor of 100,000 people.”
Wahid said while playing for Rewa, he had worked for FINTEL, as a technician at the Vatuwaqa Communications Centre.
“When I left Fiji, I was working
in the International Telephone Switching Centre and eventually supporting the International Transmission Switching Centre and International Maintenance Centre,” he said.
“I continued on with my career in the telecommunications sector working first as an engineer for GTE and then joining VodaFone USA and finally ending up with Cisco Systems as Solution Engineer for Service Provider Sector.” Wahid said his job required him to travel around the globe working with major service providers as Cisco’s Voice over IP Expert and Networking.
“While at GTE, I was assigned to migrate American National Football League (NFL) to IP networking,” he said.
Wahid said this was his first introduction to high profile sport. He was assigned to the NFL Headquarters
in New York to design and migrate the slow speed dial up lines to high speed networking utilising bleeding edge technology.
“This engagement enabled me to visit some of NFL teams across USA, which landed me to the San Francisco 49ers HQ. The 94/95 season is an important milestone in history for the 49ers franchise,” he said.
“I was called to build a network in the middle of the night from San Francisco to Arizona, two different states, so the 49ers team could train in Arizona but could continue to download their plays from their HQ in Santa Clara, California. “After the 49ers won the Superbowl that season, I was invited to the 49ers HQ and presented with a fully autographed football of the winning team. Since that season 49ers have not won Superbowl again.”
In 2008, Wahid was based in Dubai, where he was involved with International Sporting events. “Technology was just taking baby steps in the sports industry and I was tapped to propose Network Security for the 2010 FIFA event in South Africa,” he said.
“While I was still engaged, I was assigned to design the network for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil along with the roadmap for the 2016 Olympic Games.
“The first leg of the network design was identify the current infrastructure of Brazil’s Fiber Network and then design the interconnect for all events to the Command and Control Centre for broadcasting.
“While the project in Brazil, was still in progress I moved back to USA from Dubai and got involved in the network design of Levis Stadium. This was the first sporting stadium that had wall-to-wall WiFi coverage to give everlasting fan engagement and experience.
“In 2016, Superbowl 50 host committee tapped me to build a WiFi City in downtown San Francisco for the 50th anniversary of the NFL.”
Wahid said this was the project he designed, managed, installed and supported.
“I could lay my claim to the Intellectual Property of this design.
This was the first event where NFL got meaningful data to plan for future Superbowl,” he said.
“After the event, I presented the data to the host committee which became the bench mark for future out door event.”
In 2018, World Rugby approached Wahid to design, implement and support the communications system of the 7s World Cup event at SF Giants Ball Park (AT&T Park). “This was a major challenge for World Rugby, first they were venturing into a country where rugby is not a dominant sport and secondly SF Giants is a Baseball Club and we had to convert the ballpark to a rugby field,” he said.
“I was tasked to provide all communications for the event (Radio, Wifi, Bluetooth, TV, advertisers and VIP suites). “AT&T used my design to install the network and support it during the event. I was the Technology Director, overseeing the project and making sure that the event went without any problems.
“The 7s World Cup in San Francisco was a success. My design was presented to the executives of World Rugby and given as blueprint to the next 7s World Cup in South Africa.”
Words of wisdom
Looking back at his engineering and football career, Wahid says, there were many lessons learnt. Now, Wahid says, Fiji has produced many talented players and they are lots of opportunities for them now compared to his time. “During my playing days, we only hoped that the power of media and marketing then was what it was like today,” he said.
Former Rewa football defender Abdul Wahid.