Sacrifice for success

It’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.

Those were the words of the late legendary football coach Bear Bryant and it rings true for for Ba utility women’s soccer player Luisa Tamanitoakula.

It was her 10 years of continuous commitment which led her to be named the Coca-Cola Female Footballer of the Year 2017 during the Vodafone/Fiji Football Association (Fiji FA) Awards last Friday.

The Nailaga, Ba lass said the secret was ‘sacrifice for success’.

“It’s indeed an honour to be chosen among thousands of girls in the country and I know this award does not come just like that. It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of sweat out there in the field.

“I wasn’t expecting this because every time I sweated out there in the field, I knew that nobody would see me, except the Almighty, but I’m thankful to be getting the recognition.

“All credit goes to the Almighty.

“I started working for this (award) since 2008 and with 10 years into this sport, the reward finally paid off.

But this is not the end, it is just a perfect platform set for me tonight (April 13) ahead of the entire life ahead of me,” Tamanitoakula said.

Tamanitoakula, was in tears while speaking to Fiji FA Media, dedicated the award to her struggling parents back at home in Ba who recently suffered the brunt the Tropical Cyclone Keni.

She said she had always sacrificed her family’s commitments over football.

“The major factor behind the scenes is hard work. I have never complained anything about training, kept myself going despite the hardships faced especially natural disasters on my family.

“This award is for my parents (Toakula and mum Marica Tamani) in Ba who are facing a lot of difficulties right now back home.

“I was always the odd one out, missing on all the family functions because most of the time when we had family functions, I had to attend training despite the plea to be there with family.”

Tamanitoakula had been the backbone of the Ba, Vodafone national and U19 team and her scoring talent and collaborative approach had always been critical to the team’s success.

She counted herself unlucky as there was no women’s football recognition when she was in primary school. However, she commended Fiji FA’s initiative in bringing the aged-group competitions in women’s football.

“I started playing football back in 2005 when I was in class two and imagine an eight-year-old training with the Ba women’s team and got my first break three years later.

“At that time, there was no recognition for women’s football at primary school level, and just after I completed primary school then it was introduced at under-14 level which makes me feel bad. But I’m equally grateful that Fiji FA has gone through grassroots development and we’re starting to develop players from a very young age.

“That is something that has lifted our performance in the under-20 championship and Pacific Mini Games.”

Tamanitoakula is a Fiji National University student pursuing her bachelor’s degree in agriculture at the Koronivia campus in Nausori.

She shared how her childhood days used to be which had a great impact in her football career.

“It was always down in Ba when you see the boys playing and you just want to juggle inside just to fit, but never did I know that those fit-in moments would lead to something this big.

“It has been a really busy schedule last year as I was in school. Daily routine for me was like school-training-home and now I have classes until 5pm, but still I make an effort to attend training.

“There are four of us Ba players studying in Suva and I whole heartedly thank the Suva Football Association for allowing us Ba players to train with their team. Not only we just go to train for our own sake, at the end of the day we ensure that we share our knowledge among each other.”

She left a message for fellow footballers.

“Your sweat may not be recognized at this moment but the hard work and sacrifice you do, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel,” Tamanitokula said.