A small group of young women are writing their names into the history books in Tonga as they build-up to their debut on the world stage this week.
Tonga’s U-18 women’s futsal team are set to become the first Tonga team to represent the nation in a global setting at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires as the games get underway this week.
For captain Meleseini Tufui this is the start of an exciting journey for her and her teammates, who have been playing football and futsal alongside each other for years.
“In sports, especially this sport, it’s about being a team. We’ve been teammates for a long time and we grew up together so it’s really exciting for us to be doing this together.
“It’s going to be tough, but it’s cool we are all so excited to go out there and do our best,” Tufui said.
While the team officially formed in 2017 to take part in the OFC Youth Futsal Tournament, where Tonga finished runners-up of the girl’s division behind New Zealand, they have continued to keep their foot in the game since.
Progress was interrupted following Cyclone Gita which destroyed the local futsal court, however coach Manu Tualau has a lot of confidence in this group of young, dedicated girls.
“Since we learned we would be attending the Youth Olympic Games the girls have worked really hard to get ready for this challenge,” the 34-year-old said.
“We know that it will not be easy, Tonga is very new to futsal while a lot of the countries we will face have been playing for a long time.
“But the girls want to do well, we all want to do well and make Tonga proud.”
Tufui is in agreement with her coach in that the challenge ahead will be a completely new one for her and her teammates, but one they are embracing.
“We would love to score at least a goal against any of the teams, but mostly we just want to improve with every game,” the 18-year-old midfielder said.
“I know working together with my teammates we can do our best.”
The side spent a week in Auckland, New Zealand training with the East City Futsal boy’s youth team and Tufui believes with each match the team improved which bodes well for their debut against Bolivia.
“We improved with every game we played so we’re looking forward to going out and continuing to apply that.”
Buenos Aires is the furtherest this young team have every travelled and for many that would be a scary prospect but Tufui said it’s all part of the excitement.
“It’s the Olympic Games so it’s not scary at all, we’re all very excited about making this journey and doing our best for Tonga on the futsal court.”
Tonga will play their first match of the Youth Olympic Games against Bolivia, with matches against Trinidad and Tobago, Spain and Thailand to follow.
Tonga Youth Olympic Games squad