New Zealand’s first appointed Sports Ambassador to the Pacific and shotput legend Valerie Adams joined 200 children at a Just Play festival at Átele Indoor Stadium in Tonga during one of her first outings in her new role.
The four-time World champion, three time World Indoor champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time Commonwealth champion entered the stadium to the applause of the kids and a “Welcome home Valerie” chant which rung out until she found her seat.
Adams was as excited as the children to be a part of the festival, acknowledging how important it is to educate children on living healthy lifestyles.
‘’The kids here today are the future leaders, doctors, nurses, people that they will run the country,” she said.
“For them to be able to do that, we need to give them a good example, and they need to live a healthy lifestyle. I am glad we have a programme like Just Play offering all of this to these kids.
“Live healthy, live longer and live happily.’’
Adams also gave some words of inspiration to encourage the children to chase their goals, sharing her experiences of competing in the Olympics Games, Commonwealth Games and World Championships.
‘’It is an honour to represent your country in front of so many people,” she said.
“It is awesome to have people out there that inspired you and then you become the person leading.
‘’Whatever sport you choose in life, or anything in life you wish to do, you must work hard for it so you can reach the top and you also need to be happy with what you do.”
Minister for Internal Affairs Hon. Penisimani Fifita, Minister for Health Dr. Saia Piukala, New Zealand High Commissioner for Tonga Sarah Walsh and other invited guests also took part in the event.
Tonga FA General Secretary Lui Áho expressed his gratitude to the New Zealand Government for their ongoing support of the Just Play Programme and for inviting TFA to be involved in Adam’s first visit to the nation as Pacific Sports Ambassador.
‘’Today marked a very historical event for Tonga Football’’, he said.
Adams will spend the rest of her time in Tonga conducting coaching clinics with up-and-coming athletes, speaking with elite athletes, attending a Women in Leadership Advocacy Programme, and visiting New Zealand funded projects including the National Health Service facility and a community health project.
About Just Play
The OFC Just Play Programme is a sport for development programme that helps children to grow, learn and explore through sport. Just Play gives a child a ball, a coach and a safe place to play. The programme shows children how to have fun with other children, be physically active and become confident in their abilities. Through the integration of social messages, Just Play helps children to develop healthy lifestyle habits, encourages gender equality and leaders in the community, promotes social inclusion and insists on sport for all. For more information on the programme please visit: www.justplayofc.org
The OFC Just Play Programme is designed and monitored by the OFC Social Responsibility Department in partnership with Australian and the New Zealand Governments, the Football Federation Australia, the UEFA Foundation for Children and UNICEF. For more information about OFC or its 11 Member Associations visit: www.oceaniafootball.com