Stepping on the field for Veitongo to face Utulei Youth FC yesterday, Tuiakaetau and Halapua Falepapalangi became the first father and son pair to start alongside each other in the OFC Champions League Qualifier.
The 38-year-old father Halapua has had a football career spanning back to the ‘90s and is glad to be able to pass on his knowledge to his son during their Veitongo FC matches.
“It’s a blessing for us,” he said.
“I know my son still has a lot to learn, controlling the ball and knowing the right time to attack it, and I’m glad I’m there with him,” Falepapalangi senior said.
Tuiakaetau got his first taste for football when he took part in the OFC Just Play Programme. Since then his passion for the game has taken him through the age groups where he is burgeoning talent for Tonga.
“I started when I was five years old through Just Play and now I’m 17 and still playing,” he said.
Young and fit, playing alongside his father pushes Tuiakaetau to play to his strengths and work hard to ease his father’s load on the field.
“My father sometimes struggles to keep up so I fight hard to be there for my dad,” he said.
With Friday’s fixture determining the two qualifying teams for the OFC Champions League Group Stage, the Falepapalangis hope to make history again, playing beside each other in the regional competition for their Tongan club.
“At the moment our plan is to qualify and go as a father and son to the Champions League,” he said.
Halapau played a key role in keeping his side in the running for that second spot with his goal in the win over Utulei Youth helping Veitongo set up a final showdown with Samoa’s Lupe Ole Soaga.
“I know both teams want to win but we’re going to bring in everything we have,” he said.
“We’ll fight to the end and hope for the result.”
His son shares his aim to win, but is also excited just to be taking the field with his father and Veitongo FC.
“My main aim for Friday is to win, but above all I want to be happy and enjoy it.”
Veitongo FC will face Lupe Ole Soaga in the final day of the 2017 OFC Champions League Qualifier at Loto-Tonga Soka Centre at 3pm (local time) on 3 February.