One of the Pacific Islands greatest talents, Solomon Islands icon Batram Suri, is now enjoying a new career in the coaching field.
Suri was at the forefront as football in the Melanesian archipelago enjoyed massive growth during an impressive 20-year career for the fleet-footed attacker
The national team famously reached the final stage of Oceania qualifiers for the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ earning a 2-2 draw with Australia in the process. At the same time the quantity of talent that was emerging grew exponentially, while five-figure crowds at Honiara’s Lawson Tama Stadium are now common-place.
Suri became the nation’s first professional player – a feat he achieved in 1999 upon signing for New Zealand’s Football Kingz – which confirmed his status at the vanguard of the game in the Solomons. Others such as Commins Menapi and Henry Fa'arodo soon followed the same path signing for other clubs in Australia’s National Soccer League.
The 40-year-old wrapped up his playing days - which began at senior level way back in 1990 with hometown club Lauga - in fitting fashion by featuring in last year’s OFC O-League final. Suri was then on the books of Vanuatu side Amicale, who performed above expectations to make the final but could not complete the fairytale and were defeated by New Zealand's Auckland City.
Now Suri is part of a coaching duo alongside Moses Toata at S-League club Solomon Warriors, and recently assisted national team coach Luke Eroi in qualifiers for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012.
The Solomon Islands have long been recognised as producing dynamic but raw players and Suri is seeking to massage that unrefined talent into future stars. "Most of the young players have skill but that's it - there is still a lot more to learn besides skill," said Suri.
"Some of the young Solomon Islands players are very good but when people tell them that their heads start to get bigger and they start losing their focus and concentration. That's why the youth players need to change their attitude, I think some of them have an attitude problem. I have seen a few good young players who should be playing for overseas clubs by now but their attitudes are wrong."
Suri is aiming to impart some of his experiences as a professional, alongside the likes of Oceania Player of the Century Wynton Rufer, to the nation's youth.
"How we did things was so different to being a semi-pro or amateur player." he said. "I enjoyed being with professional players so much, especially the ones that had been brought in from different countries."
"Turning professional was a moment I had always aimed for. Players from the Solomons had always seen the national team as the highest level you could reach so it was great to show that you can go further."
Solomon Islands will not have to wait long for their next tilt at glory as the sprawling multi-island nation hosts Stage 2 of Oceania qualifying for Brazil 2014 next month. The top four will progress from the eight-nation tournament to next year’s third and final stage, while the winner will represent Oceania at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.