From Foot­ball, to Techno, to Pol­i­tics

Fiji Sun - - SPORTS - LEONE CABENATABU­A Edited by Kar­alaini Waqanidrol­a

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.

Sport­ing ca­reer

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.”

New jour­ney

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.

Global sports

“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.

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