Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Family is helping to power Steinmetz to Ferns football greatness

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

Midfielder Malia Steinmetz has been one of the many heroes of this current Football Ferns side in the FIFA Women’s Football World Cup.

Currently playing professionally at the Western City Wanderers, the 24-year-old’s been a regular member of New Zealand age-grade sides as she’s come through the ranks, making her full Ferns debut against Thailand in 2017.

Now she’s part of a squad that’s already made history for the country and is hoping the reach “Beyond Greatness”, echoing the theme for this year’s global tournament.

But for Malia, her journey of greatness begins in humble Onehunga, Auckland, immersing herself in the stories of her family and her Samoan culture.

Her upbringing is something Malia has always been proud of, and behind it are two important women. Her mother Paula and Samoan grandmother Beverley Ah Kuoi.

“I just wouldn’t be who I am today without them and I think that’s very clear. They’re very strong women. They’ve taught me everything really” Malia says. 

“It comes down to them at the end of the day. I think just because, being a woman and then, doing what they’ve done, coming through. I think I got a lot from them and it’s literally why I’ve been able to play the way I do, and just keep going.

“I think I remember every Christmas we do a umu, if we’re coming back to our Samoan ties, we always would do an umu. Even though we were just like little palagi kids we didn’t know much but at least we had our grandma I think that was our first experience in the backyard doing that over there.”

Grandmother Beverley recalls Malia as a respectful child who was always destined for greatness. 

“Very proud. She’s a lovely girl. Yeah, she’s so good, Malia,” Beverly says.

“And they’re very respectful. And to me that is the most important thing. You got to respect not only me but elderly people. I’m very lucky to have them and proud of them.”

Malia’s mother Paula Steinmetz recalls her as a hardworking individual right from a young age.

“Oh she was great. Feisty yeah. She’s got three brothers so she’s always had to hold her own,”  Paula says.

“So we come from sporting background, me and my husband. So we always knew they were going to get into some kind of sport. In summer we put them in athletics and in winter it was rugby and soccer. All our weekends were spent travelling watching our kids play. And then all the training after school.”

Malia and the Football Ferns are currently have one win and one loss, with their final pool match against Switzerland this weekend to determine their playoff hopes.

Whatever the result, Malia is proud of what they have achieved as a team and where the future of football is heading for New Zealand.

“Women’s sport is really something to invest in and is something to love and cherish and I’m so happy to be part of it,” Malia says.

For now, Malia is certain and sure of one thing. Through the ups and downs of her career her family support will always be strong.

Both Paula and Beverley are extremely proud of Malia and what she has accomplished through her journey to the top.

“Very very proud. Because I’ve seen how hard she’s worked for it, and hasn’t come easy. But she’s had to put in the hard yards, and there’ve been setbacks and mentally she’s been tough enough to get through that and get to where she’s at today,” Paula says.

“I know when Malia was little, we took her to the Under 17 World Cup and that’s what lit the fire in her. And that’s what is going to happen. Like we don’t know these people but we know that that’s going to happen to a lot of these kids watching.”

As for Malia, family will always be at the forefront of whatever she does.

“I think as you get older, you just realise that family is everything. And like they are just the ones who help you the most and they support you the most no matter, no what. I think it’s one of my big things that I have had with playing at such intense levels,” she says.

“It’s like one of those things that I always come back to. Especially during the games if something bad happens or I get really stressed out any time of the day, I just go. ‘oh I got my family.’”

And grandmother Beverley has one wish for the Football Ferns.

“I wish them all the best and hopefully they play well. And no injuries,”  she laughs.

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