09th September is the birthday of one very special figure of Oceania football: Raphael Lea’i. The now 17-year-old attacker is already very well-known for the football fans through the Pacific. Despite at so young age, Lea’i already represented Solomon Islands both in Futsal and Football in international tournaments, being the golden boot and best player of the the last U16 OFC Championship.
The player managed by Basi Futbol Agency is currently playing his club football at the top-Solomon Islands side Henderson Eels. Lea’i played a season at Scots College in Wellington, New Zealand before joining Eels to compete at 2020 OFC Champions League, competition where Lea’i scored two goals and helped his team to qualify for the knock-out stage.
Certainly, Lea’i is one of the top-talents of Oceania football at the moment. But we would not be wrong if we state Rapha is already a star of the present of Solomon Islands. As mentioned, Raphael was part of the Eels campaign in the 2019 Telekom S-League that qualified the team for the OFC Champions League – the young striker scored 24 goals in seven matches being the 2019/20 Telekom S-League’s Golden Boot winner.
Oceania Football Center highlighted the profile of the 17-year-old recently stating all his achievements so far in football. The player already scored eight goals in five matches player in the current season of the Telekom S-League for Henderson Eels. His team is currently at the top of the table of Solomon Islands’ national league.
In 2019 Lea’i achieved the top of his career so far as he took part of the FIFA U17 World Cup held in Brazil. Despite the bad campaign of the Solomon Islands in their first ever FIFA football tournament, Lea’i’s performances were good enough to caugh attention of many fans, media and professional clubs. The player already trialled with Argentinian outfit Godoy Cruz and Australian powerhouse Melbourne Victory – as Lea’i is still to to turn 18, and FIFA does not allow U18 players to play overseas under professional contracts – the player could not continue in both teams, but it is known he was succesful in his trials. He only could play a season in New Zealand as he was under a scolarship program offered by New Zealand’s professional side Wellington Phoenix in agreement with Scots College. The player trained with Phoenix and played in the school boys’ team competitions for Scots.
If Lea’i is already a top-player for his country at 17 – he was called up for Solomon Islands national team training camp, but it was forced to an early end due COVID-19 pandemic – we are eager to see how far can Raphael Lea’i go.