NZ go back to school in Tonga

The entire squad and coach Leon Birnie made the trip out to Tailulu College, a school in Nuku’alofa with around 500 pupils.
Players took part in games with the students, toured some of the classrooms and gave out gifts and prizes during the hour-long visit.
With New Zealand having three rest days at the 2015 OFC U-20 Women’s Championship, Birnie said it was a great way to give something back to the grassroots game in Tonga.
“We have some time off from games and a few of the girls thought it would be a nice thing to do,” he says.
“We had a great reception and walking around you could see both the kids and girls were full of smiles, which is what it is all about really.
“For some of the girls it was a new experience while some of them have done coaching before.
“But it is important for us to help spread our knowledge and enjoyment of the game, and visits like this are a great way to do that.”
Tailulu College is emerging as one of Tonga’s fastest-growing schools in terms of football participation, this year entering seven teams in the secondary school competition.
While none of the players in the Tonga team currently competing at the OFC U-20 Women’s Championship are from the school, five pupils recently travelled to New Zealand with the Tonga U-15 boys and girls, and it seems only a matter of time before Tailulu is represented in a national side.
Sport master of the school, Sioeame Ongoloka, says high participation numbers and on-field success shows the football programme there has potential.
“The school is big on football this year and of the seven teams we had competing this season three of them finished first in their competition, two finished second and two finished third,” he says.
“They play three days a week after school and enjoy it a lot.
“I hope to see us have some Tonga representatives in the future, and for us to provide the best local football players in the coming years.
“The kids were really excited to have the New Zealand team here, and we appreciate their effort to come out.”
New Zealand currently lead the OFC U-20 Women’s Championship with three victories from three games. They finish their campaign against Samoa on Saturday.


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