Tonga is a small country in Oceania with approximately 108,000 inhabitants. The most popular sport in the country is rugby; its national team took part in several Rugby World Cups already. Unfortunately, football is in a different situation: although it has developed in the recent years, it is still not one of the most famous sports in the country. Even so, Tonga has a professional player playing in Asia: AJ Inia.
One person who can change that in the coming years is Laveni Vaka, a Tongan player who represented Tonga in the 2018 OFC Women’s Nations Cup. She is currently playing college football in the United States and together with her sister may become the first two Tongan women to play football professionally.
Oceania Football Center had the pleasure to interview of one of the most prominent sportswoman of Tonga:
Inevitably we cannot begin with another question, how did you receive the news of the volcano disaster in Tonga?
I was super heart broken for the people of Tonga. I live in the states and so connection with family was cut off for awhile. During that time it was a bunch of unknowns if our family and friends were safe.
After the disaster in Tonga, how do you feel football will develop? How hard it will be to put up together a team to play the next international tournaments?
I think that players in Tonga will feel obligated to almost stay home and help their family during this time instead of going to these international tournaments. However, I know they do have plans to go to tournaments and to keep developing as far as a team.
Do you intend to pursue a professional career in football after graduation in college?
Yes I do. I’m hoping to go international, but if plans don’t workout I will play here in America.
Does your relationship with football come from an early age? How is the influence of having a twin sister playing with you?
My sister and I have been playing since We were 6 years old. We’ve influenced each other to grow and become better football players. It was never competitive with each other, just wanting to be the best we could be.
Do you think Tongan football association is doing enough for the development of football in the country?
I think they are doing the best they can with what they have. The Tongan football association has done a great job of making the people of Tonga more aware of football. In a couple of years I can see the Tongan football association become a power house if they continue to develop, grow, and have the right resources.
Declaring for NSWL draft is a possibility for your future?
Yes it is!
The goal you had scored against Cook Islands is the most important moment for you as a player for the Tongan national team?
Yes it was the most important and memorable moment for me. I was only 16 at the time and it was a huge moment for me and my family.
Did the Tonga federation ever contact you and your sister to participate in the training camp in Australia?
Not for camp, but for the Women’s World Cup Qualifiers, yes.
That’s good. So we can confirm that you will be playing the World Cup Qualifiers?
I can’t confirm that right now until the time comes closer. I would love to play in the World Cup qualifiers but I have to see what my duties here are for university before committing to play and also what the covid protocols will be.
One last question, not about football – do you speak the native language of Tonga?
I don’t speak Tongan but I can understand the language. Learning how to speak Tongan fluently is something I want to accomplish in the future.
The Oceania Football Center thanks Laveni Vaka for her time to answer and hopes for the best for her football carrer!