Although under-resourced and with inadequate facilities the love of soccer was evident among the children of the Faleasiu Kids Soccer Club (F.K.S.C) yesterday.
The club was started by Tumatavai Ropati Sofara in 2014 when he noticed his son Tia’i Jr. Sofara loved the sport.
Tia’i who is a 12 year old boy from Faleasiu suffers from a disability that limits action to the left side of his body but that doesn’t stop him from playing the sport he loves.
Sauvao Leemo Sofara the mother of Tia’i spoke to Samoa Observer about her son’s condition.
“When my son walks or runs, he curls his left arm and he uses the tip of his left foot which has resulted in his heel becoming small,” she said.
“He had a surgery for his leg and now he can walk normally but when he runs it’s still the same as before but he has always been a fast runner.”
Tia’i fell in love with the sport from the moment he received his first soccer ball.
“We tried to get him a rugby ball but he was not interested and then we got him a soccer ball, it was like love at first sight,” Sauvao said.
“We got him a Playstation and noticed that he was only interested in soccer movies and games. Not long after, my husband noticed more and more children from the village joining my son in front of our house playing soccer.
He sat the children down and asked if they wanted to start the club and they said yes and then F.K.S.C club was born.”
The club which is made up of children from all over Faleasiu received assistance from the Just Play programme where they brought over a sack of soccer balls, bibs, cones and whistles; they also provided a few lessons for the children.
Some youths saw the passion the children had for soccer which motivated them to join and make an under 17 team for the club.
Maintaining the club has been no easy task.
“The area in front of the house was once a banana plantation but I cleared it for the children to play soccer because they were not allowed to play on the school fields,” Sauvao said.
“We went to Faleasiu School and they told us not to use their field and we didn’t know where to take the children so I just cut down all the banana trees to give them a place to train.
“They have to deal with playing on a dusty field now.”
According to Sauvao the struggles are well worth it.
“We struggle keeping this club running but we do it because all the children are like our own now, when they come they have free full access to our house and if there’s food then we feed them,” she said.
“We teach them all manners and the right attitude.”
Sauvao and her husband also use soccer as a form of incentive for the children to do well in school.
“We try our best to use this club to help the children, we have a rule that if you don’t give your best in school then you are not allowed to play soccer which also motivates them to make an effort in their education,” Sauvao said.
“When they receive a prize during the schools prize giving then they will also receive a prize from our soccer club.”
When funding is needed for the club Sauvao gathers her family and they cut the grass, clean the land for different families as well as cow farms to raise the money.
For Tia’i, soccer is something that he cherishes.
“Soccer was the only thing that allowed me to use my left side… other activities are very difficult for me to do,” he said.
“I have gained so much experience in soccer because it’s the only thing I can do in my situation.”
His father and famous soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo are both his motivations.
“My dad used to play soccer and I inherited that same love for the game, I want to be just like him,” Tia’i said.
“My favorite player is Cristiano Ronaldo because he’s very skillful. I want to be like him because he is famous and he’s well known in the world.”
The young soccer player concluded with a small message for children like himself.
“For all the children with a disability I urge you to ignore your sickness and push yourself to play a sport that you love, don’t ponder on that disability because you are still capable of great things.”
The club’s under 17 girls won last year’s soccer tournament with their under 17 boys coming in fourth.