Atkin Kaua is a young footballer on the rise and his return to home soil has only aided him in his desire to become a key player in the national team.
The Solomon Islander joined Marist FC this season and has adapted well to the squad and its style of play after spending several years in New Zealand.
The 20-year-old came through Nelson College and has played with Nelson Suburbs as well as having spent a season under Willie Gerdsen at Canterbury United.
Kaua had been due to join Tasman United in their Premiership debut before visa issues sent him back to Solomon Islands where he was quickly snapped up by Marist.
“I’m really excited to be playing with a Solomon Islands side,” Kaua said.
“Especially as it’s my first time in the OFC Champions League.”
Kaua, who was in the 2014 Solomon Islands U-20 squad where he won the Golden Boot, said it is great to be back with former teammates like Timothy Bakale.
“We’re all good friends,” he said.
“I played with some of them in the age-group national team and we all get along really well.”
What has Kaua especially pleased to be back in Honiara is the pathway it has opened up for him to the national team.
After missing out on the OFC Nations Cup, Kaua has worked hard to gain a place in the national team and made his World Cup Qualifying debut in November last year.
“It was important for me to find a way to represent the national team,” he said.
“Finally I was chosen for the matches against Tahiti at home and away, and it was such a good experience.”
The opportunity to play alongside Solomon legends like Henry Fa’arodo and Benjamin Totori is also a plus for the youngster.
“As a young player in the squad it’s good to play with some of the older players because they have a lot of experience they can share.
“Henry is a good teacher, and a good leader too. It was a good test, the senior national team is another step up and it’s good having guidance.
Reflecting on his first match in the Champions League, Kaua said Rewa were a good side, and he’s pleased Marist came away with the win.
“They were physical, strong and fast. But fortunately we had confidence,” he said.
“I also think I had a good game myself which helped me enjoy it more, but I definitely noticed that there is a difference in the level here.
“It was quite hard actually, the level is very high.”
While he has his eye on a professional career that he hopes will take him further afield, Kaua is happy just to be playing at the highest level the region has to offer.
“I want to be a professional of course, but also I just love to play, to enjoy the football and to travel wherever the game takes me.”