On Saturday, the first-ever tournament-based futsal festival got underway at Vava’u High School hall with an impressive 32 teams signed up to participate in the eight-week event.
Vava’u Football Association Officer in Charge, Manatu Liava’a said the local community is excited to be learning more about futsal and developing skills in a game which suits the smaller island group communities.
“Introducing futsal in Vava’u is a new era for football here in the island and we are excited and motivated to join in an promote the game,” Liava’a said.
“We believe we can manage to play the game even though it’s new and we are expecting a fun and enjoyable futsal tournament in Vava’u.”
The incorporation of the small-sided game into the newest Health and WASH curriculum has been led by TFA Futsal Instructor and Development Officer, Manu Tualau with the full support of Just Play Programme Manager Palu Uhatahi-Tu’amoheloa and her team.
The Just Play Programme is being delivered in 16 local communities, following the successful training of volunteers earlier this month, with the weekly sessions providing the basic futsal skill training.
Each session couples games with themed social messages, with week one covering “Fruits and Vegetables Every Day”.
Tualau said the festival-tournament provides an opportunity to reinforce not only the skills learned during the week, but to emphasise the key themes and messages.
Taking the Just Play Programme and futsal to Vava’u is part of the Tonga Football Association’s wider strategy to increase participation and make football a game for all across the nation.
Uhatahi-Tu’amoheloa said: “As we are focusing on promoting healthy lifestyles here in Tonga, we wish to reach out not just to the children within the main island, but the outer islands as well.
“Just Play has been on the ground for 11 years now and we would like to ensure the programme continues to impact on the lives of our younger generations, but would also like to see futsal grow too,” she said.
Tonga proved their mettle in the small-sided game when they made their first FIFA tournament appearance at the Youth Olympic Games in 2018.
A number of former Just Play graduates were named in the squad, including captain Seini Lutu, which played three matches against Spain, Bolivia and Trinidad and Tobago.