Capable of terrorising an opposition defence on the football field, Ba FC striker Saula Waqa is also becoming known as a ‘gentle giant’.
The Fiji international has achieved a lot in his short career.
Qualifying with Fiji to their first FIFA U-20 World Cup and Olympic Games, he’s also earned regional accolades taking out the OFC Champions League Golden Boot award ahead of some impressive, and more experienced, opponents.
These opportunities have made the 22-year-old a role model to budding footballers in Fiji and it’s a role he takes very seriously.
Waqa has signed on as a volunteer for the OFC Just Play Programme in Fiji, spending time teaching healthy living, gender equality and other important social messages through football.
“It has been a good experience for me,” he said.
“I’ve gained more experience, more confidence in myself. I’ve been able to learn how to communicate really well with the students and I love being out with the school kids.”
Although Waqa has found success in football and life, he believes the OFC Just Play Programme would have been of great benefit to him growing up.
“It’s unfortunate that this kind of programme was not there during our childhood but this is what we can give back to the kids now, so they can take it and become good footballers in the future,” Waqa stated.
“I think Just Play can have a benefit on football in Fiji.
“If the parents and communities work together to support the development programmes in the community and in the schools, it can be a success.”
Waqa’s volunteer activities took a back seat recently as he joined his long-time club Ba FC in Vanuatu for the opening group of the OFC Champions League 2018.
Hoping to play a key role in the side’s campaign, like his teammates Waqa was left disappointed by the final results of their matches.
“Myself, I know we didn’t have a good outcome in the Champions League this year,” he said.
“But I want to thank the boys for the hard effort that we did.”
Two intensely fought matches against Nalkutan FC and Lae City Dwellers were just narrow 1-0 losses for Ba and despite beating Tupapa Maraerenga 4-1 in their final game it was too late to secure a top two group finish.
Ba haven’t made the knockout stages of Oceania’s premier international club competiton since 2015 when the tournament was hosted in Fiji, however Waqa believes the side’s return to the top echelons isn’t far away.
“The football in the Champions League, it’s a different step altogether from our local league competition back at home,” Waqa said.
“The intensity of this competition, it’s a nice standard, and if we want to match the intensity we have to prepare really well.
“We weren’t too far behind in Vanuatu we just have to keep working hard and our turn will come.”
Ba finished third in Group A of the OFC Champions League 2018, fellow Fijian club Lautoka began their campaign in Auckland this week and have qualified for the quarter finals with a game in hand.