Refereeing in Tonga has made a gradual return following the eruption and devastation of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in January this year.

It has been a tough situation for the people of Tonga who after a month of rebuilding their lives from the natural disaster, were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic which put restrictions in place by the government.

Over the last few months, the Tongan match officials connected online through Zoom to keep in touch and attempt to maintain their physical fitness.

In June, the Tonga Football Association (TFA) launched their referee academy after two years of conceptualisation. Fifty referees from Tongatapu, Vava’u Island (25) and ‘Eua Island (15) have registered for 2022.

TFA Refereeing Development Officer Tevita Vea said it hasn’t been easy, but the organisation has created a solid foundation.

“We have designed the curriculum and syllabus to suit our referees and developed the more practical side of trainings as well,” Vea said.

“We are excited to roll out the academy throughout Tonga.  We have also connected with professionals from overseas to facilitate sessions online on topics such as nutrition, sports science and physiology.

“I alongside my team based in Tonga will be taking care of the technical side of refereeing such as teaching the Laws of The Game.”

Vea said the academy will be important for wellbeing recovery after the situations Tonga have had to face earlier this year.

“I knew we had to put the academy into action as fast as we could and since then we have noticed the positive impacts it has had on our referees,” Vea said.

“They are re-adjusting to normality, and it is our job now to create a healthy environment at the TFA Referees Academy for them.”

Practical and fitness sessions will run every Tuesday followed by theoretical sessions on Thursdays.