Photo Credit: Palu Uhatahi Tu’amoheloa
The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup has made history as the biggest Women’s sporting event in the world, reaching new highs for participating teams and audience attendance. It was also the first time FIFA has implemented safeguarding in a major tournament.
The World Cup being hosted in the Oceania region has provided a multitude of pathways for women involved in all areas of the game. One woman who got to experience first-hand these opportunities was OFC Just Play Tonga Manager, Palu Uhatahi Tu’amoheloa.
With the support of Team Up and FIFA, Uhatahi Tu’amoheloa was given the chance to be a Safeguarding Observer at the tournament based in Sydney working at two match venues, Stadium Australia and the Sydney Football Stadium.
Some of the duties of a Safeguarding Observer include educating staff, teams and accommodation staff on safeguarding concerns and how to report them, as well as responding to these concerns ensuring that everyone is respected accordingly with confidentiality.
Being among nine safeguarding observers from four countries, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and Tonga, Uhatahi Tu’amoheloa reflects it was an experience of empowerment for Pacific Women.
“As one of the Pacific Women in the FIFA World Cup, I’m empowered with the opportunity, and without Team Up we might not get the chance to excel, and capacity build ourselves in this huge event.”
“To witness the varsity of the game itself, the facility, the spectators, stakeholders, online viewers and marketing are far beyond greatness.”
Photo credit: Palu Uhatahi Tu’amoheloa
Adding to her incredible list of expertise in the safeguarding space, Palu Uhatahi Tu’amoheloa was the first Pacific Islands based graduate of the FIFA Guardians Safeguarding in Sport Diploma, a qualification that was made aware to her when a FIFA Safeguarding Officer presented at an OFC conference.
“I’m humbled to be one of the pioneers in FIFA Guardians Safeguarding in Sport Diploma. I remembered in 2019 during our Program Managers meeting in Vanuatu right after the OFC Women’s Football Conference we began this conversation and dialogue with the Safeguarding Officer from FIFA.”
Palu Uhatahi Tu’amoheloa commends the power of football and the pathways it can provide, noting that her role as an OFC Tonga Just Play Programme Manager is at the heart of her own football journey and success.
“I would say the Just Play program has set the foundation of my journey in football. I get to wear different hats while managing the Just Play program and always find a tune to play along with my colleagues at the Tonga Football Association.”
“I respect my superiors and so as my culture, which is one of the things that I admired in this FIFA Women’s World Cup. They acknowledge the custody of the land and fenua.”
Palu Uhatahi Tu’amoheloa, commends Oceania Football Confederation who have followed in FIFA’s Safeguarding footsteps, making efforts to implement Safeguarding policies in their own competitions this year.
“The OFC implemented a legacy program committed to creating a safer, healthier, and inclusive Oceania which is one of the highlights for the next 4 years.”
“The sustainability of these legacies is crucial, especially for our region which is vulnerable to all kinds of issues and safeguarding is one of them. Safeguarding is still a baby in Oceania. We want to see all the OFC competitions have safeguarding sessions with the teams, referees, and staff to help to ensure that the legacy lives.”