Family affair for Veitongo

Mark Uhatahi (left) is now coaching Veitongo FC, which includes coaching his brothers Tupou (centre) and Pita (right). Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek

Following a lengthy playing career for Veitongo FC in Tonga, Mark Uhatahi is in his first season coaching the club and that includes directing three of his brothers around the pitch.

The Uhatahi family is a big part of the club and they also have another brother that lives in New Zealand.

Aside from Mark with the clipboard, Sione, Tupou and Pita are on the playing roster and they all featured during their 2-0 loss to Lupe Ole Soaga SC in their opening match of the Qualifying Stage of the OFC Champions League 2020 in Auckland on Saturday.

The family would love to help push their side into the group stages of the Champions League but face a tough task ahead of their second game against Cook Islands club Tupapa Maraerenga FC in Auckland on Friday.

Mark said it was a new dynamic coaching his brothers, having lined up alongside them on the pitch for so long.

“I’ve played with them in the national team but now I coach and there is a different feeling between brothers,” Mark said.

“When I am the coach and they’re players, there’s a great amount of spirit for me from the boys with my role as the coach. So the bonding and the spirit that we have as brothers really contributes to the preparation for the game.”

Tupou, who played in the midfield with Pita during the defeat to Lupe, said his family came from a long line of football players.

“We grew up in a soccer village. Our forefathers were soccer players and we grew up in a soccer family.”

With a brother living in New Zealand, the Uhatahi family has gathered some strong support in Auckland for the Qualifying Stage.

“It’s a whole new level of energy when the family is here cheering for us, and especially for us as brothers,” Tupou said.

That energy also transfers onto the pitch where Tupou said the siblings always looked out for each other.

“There is a different feeling when you’re playing with your brothers in the field because if we are defending and my brother misses his defending job I have to cover my brother and I have to go and defend and make sure my brother looks good on the field as well.”

They will need that brotherly love as they search for a spot in the group stages of this year’s OFC Champions League.

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