Women’s football is on the rise in the Pacific which is no surprise given the passion, dedication and hard work epitomised by one of our region’s most iconic female administrators.
Football means everything to Adelaide Tuivailala, who first emerged on the Oceania scene as the goalkeeper for the Tonga national team in 1991.
After hanging up her gloves at the end of her playing career in 1998, Ms Tuivailala forged an impressive path from the offices of the Tonga Football Association.
“I moved into administration and helped out with running competitions at Tonga football. A year later I was fortunate to attend the OFC Women’s Football Symposium in Auckland and the FIFA Women’s Football Symposium in Los Angeles during the 1999 World Cup hosted by the United States,” recalled Ms Tuivailala.
“I’m so lucky, I feel like I’m part of a big football family through Tonga Football but equally through OFC as well as FIFA. I’m fortunate to be given a chance to serve my country and the game, and in return football has given back so much to me,” she continued.
“I got to travel around the world through football and made lifelong friends all across the world. A few years ago I was fortunate to be selected for a FIFA Women’s Leadership programme which was one of the highlights of my career. It was something that helped me to redirect my focus and inspired me to work even harder to help the development of women’s football in the Pacific,” added Ms Tuivailala.
However, at the end of 2018 Ms Tuivailala suffered a major setback when she was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome.
“I felt tired, then gradually I felt numbness in my legs and hands, I was in pain lost my mobility, it was debilitating,” she remembered
Despite no guarantee for recovery, she drew on the support of her loved ones and friends, her inner strength and her faith to fight her disease.
“I feel stronger every day and I know soon I will throw my crutches away. I’m determined to continue my work in football the future is bright I know I will continue to do what I love,” she insisted.
Ms Tuivailala’s dedication to the game and her strength serve an inspiration to her family, friends and colleagues.
FIFA’s Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman paid tribute to her fellow Pacific friend.
“Laite is a very special woman with a beautiful heart and we are so lucky to have her involved in football. It’s fantastic to know what she is on the road back to full health and I can’t wait to see her smile lighting up the football pitches again,” she said.
“Laite was a participant in the FIFA Women in Football Leadership program a few years ago and as a fellow Pacific woman I had so much pride watching her represent our region on the world stage. She’s an absolute champion and it’s a blessing and a privilege to call her my friend,” explained the Chief Women’s Football Officer for FIFA.
OFC General Secretary Franck Castillo is also proud to have such an inspirational woman involved in our Oceania family.
“Laite gave us a wonderful lesson. You should never lose hope. She has dedicated most of her life to football and football and her faith gave her the courage to fight and be back,” he said
“Women in the Pacific are resilient, strong and play an important role in the Pacific communities. They are also role model. We are so happy to see Laite back to the Tonga Football Association where she will continue to contribute to football in Tonga, more particularly women football. She is part of our OFC family,” added the OFC General Secretary.