By Emma Sharplin
The gaping hole that James Narayan, or Jimmy Sparks as he was known as, has left in the Tuakau community was evident on Tuesday evening.
Over 500 people attended the evening service at the Tuakau Cosmopolitan Club, a true testament to just how special he was to many.
His family described the respect he received was ‘as though he was treated like a celebrity’.
To those who loved him, he stood for so much. Jimmy was a coach, a great footballer for the Tuakau Football Club, a brother, an adopted son, and a best friend to many.
On Saturday 13 May, Jimmy Sparks was playing his second game of football when he collapsed from suspected heart attack.
Despite the amazing efforts from his team members, who performed CPR until medics arrived, Jimmy unfortunately never recovered. He passed away in the early hours of Sunday morning, surrounded by those who loved and adored him.
Jimmy joined the Tuakau Football Club in 2009, after originally bringing his nephew down for trials. It was then and there that he became an integral part of the Tuakau Football family.
From taking out 150 consecutive games for the Tuakau Wanderers, to being the longest standing coach of the women’s team (which is said to be a record in itself), Jimmy could quite easily be described as the heart and soul of the club. The ‘flying Fijian’ was a strong defender, who saved many a goal from would be strikers. This was his first season playing for the Old Boy’s team, yet many agreed that 38, he was still too young.
Before his service, Jimmy was taken to one his favourite places for the last time, the Tuakau fields and club-rooms. A small and intimate gathering was held, before he was farewelled from the town in true Tuakau style and at his favourite watering hole.
Accompanied by his best friends, Tim McMillan, Brian Voice, Glenn Williams, Prinay Prasad, Dougie Glode and Rob Hatton, Jimmy was flown back home to Fiji on Thursday 18 May. He was farewelled by his family, and laid to rest beside his dad, who only passed away three weeks ago.
Auckland Football Federation were saddened to learn about the passing of Jimmy, with CEO Bill MacGowan paying tribute the Tuakau footballer.
“Everyone at Auckland Football Federation is saddened by the passing of James. James was a much-loved and revered figure at Tuakau Soccer Club evidenced by how many people have been touched by this tragedy. I am sure James was and will always remain a loved figure at the club. The football family remembers James with affection and respect and our deepest condolences go out to the Tuakau Soccer Club and James’ family at this most difficult time,”concluded MacGowan.
Local clubs, including Waiuku AFC, Papakura, Pukekohe and Franklin United, also offered their condolences to the Tuakau community and Jimmy’s family on passing of Jimmy Sparks.
The Tuakau Football Club has been fund raising to cover the costs of his New Zealand funeral, to get Jimmy home to Fiji, the Fiji funeral, 100 day celebration (Fijian tradition) and for a headstone that will be unveiled this time next year. The club and Jimmy’s family cannot thank the community enough for their support and those who have contributed so far.
The account will remain open until all the expenses have been paid, and donations can still be made into bank account: 03 0406 0648712 01
This Saturday will see a tribute game against Waiuku AFC on home turf, and after the game Jimmy’s framed 23 jersey will be hung in the Tuakau changing rooms. The number 23 will also be retired for the Tuakau club. Kick off begins at 2.45pm.
Rest in peace Jimmy Sparks, you truly were a one in a million.
CAPTION:Jimmy Sparks (in green) representing the Tuakau Wanderers last year.