Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
The first ever talanoa session for Pacific communities and the growth of the game of football was held last Saturday in South Auckland.
The Pasifika Football In Communities event was a collaboration between NZ Football and the Ministry of Pacific Peoples, bringing together various people of Pacific heritage who were active on the football scene in New Zealand.
This included players, coaches, club presidents and referees and about everyone else who were equally responsible in developing the game at grassroots level.
NZ Football President Johanna Wood spoke of the importance of the event and how it was a “new wave” of a journey that had never been done before.
Wood added that football is the highest in participation numbers of all sports in New Zealand but was left wondering if that was visible to people especially those in the pacific communities.
The program was facilitated by Dr Lefaoali’i Dion Enari who will collate a final report from gathered answers and queries from those present, all in enhancing football in New Zealand for Pacific communities.
23 year old Sosaia Tulikihakau who despite his young age has pretty much worn every possible hat in the football space.
Based at his local club the Manukau United Football club, Sosaia has played, coached, refereed and even sat as a board member in executive meetings.
Even with all these roles, he believes that having a talanoa session for our pacific people in football is crucial for creating future pathways within the sport.
“It was such an awesome day man,” he said.
“There was so much mafana in the room and you could really feel it. The ideas that everyone was sharing too were so thought provoking in not only getting our pasifika people in the game but also retaining them”
Sosaia was part of the event panel who discussed the future of the game of football and where it can head too in the direction of pasifika players who are currently playing in their clubs as of today. Although the talanoa session and program may be new, he believes that this is a great investment for the future.
“I never thought I would be part of an event where I am able to help shape the future of Pasifika football in New Zealand” he added.
“There’s people here that you know I may have met through the sport and community briefly, but it is different when you bring all those minds together in one room and discuss what we can do for the growth of the game”.
A major part discussed by the panel and also those who were present at the event was the idea of trying to implement pacific cultural values in football. Despite it being branded as the “global game”, a lot of these present felt like there was more work needed to be done in making everyone feel included and not left out.
Sosaia believes that having a talanoa session will only “ignite the fuel” for him and his work he does for the game and community,
“The stuff we have received through the years as pacific people in football that we mentioned today, I hope OFC (Oceania Football Confederation) and NZ Football can take that as feedback and know how they can improve their work for the future”
“My hopes is that this can be the start of something new to not only get more pacific influence in football but for everyone to feel as if they are part of a big family”.