Page 122 - Simply Abu Dhabi Magazine V

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Is sporting prowess something that runs in the family?
When you have Samoan heritage, you always have plenty of relatives because of the
big size of families over there. I have cousins who play – and have played – top
flight rugby league and rugby union and we are all very proud of each other’s
achievements and I am fortunate enough to have grown up in a sports-orientated
family. I knew by the age of 10 that I wanted to be a professional football player; I
used to watch the games beamed in from England with my dad and brothers and
that only fed my obsession. There was no real Plan B for me and I knew that one
day I would come to England to fulfil my dreams. I didn’t have a clue when but I
knew it was going to be an adventure and a massive part of my life. I remember
when I was 14 years old telling my dad that I’d had enough of school and that I
wanted to concentrate on my football career. Within three years, I had managed to
get myself a trial at Millwall and the dream was starting to become a reality.
What were your early influences?
We lived over in Samoa for a couple of years as kids, in the capital, Apia, and the
Samoan influence is definitely a big part of my life; so big that I even represented
the Samoan national football team at the age of 14. I think it came as a bit of a
surprise to my whole family when I brought “soccer” into the family because,
traditionally, Samoan’s were brought up playing rugby league and rugby union.
We hear you have some cultural affinity for the Middle East?
I’m a big fan of Qatar, following some time spent in rehab there overcoming
injuries. I underwent excellent injury maintenance and rehabilitation at Aspetar,
Qatar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital. With a personal interest in the
Middle East, I was pleased with Qatar’s 2022 World Cup victory, which may come
as a surprise to many. I saw their presentation and was really impressed. I’d jump at
the opportunity to attend the World Cup there in 2022. I also have business
connections in Qatar, so yes; the Middle East holds great appeal for me.
What inspired you to set up your Coaching Clinics?
I have been lucky enough to get the opportunity to pursue my dreams and have had
a fantastic soccer career. From this fortunate position I’ve found myself in, I hope
to inspire the future generation of Australian soccer players. I want to change grass
roots football in Australia. Basically that's what I'm doing now. I want to help kids
understand they can change things with hard work. The aim of our Coaching
Clinics is to encourage children to develop their talents within a supportive and fun
environment, building on their interest to nurture talent. Who knows, we may find
a real soccer star.
What will the Coaching Clinics incorporate?
We need to increase participation in the game and our mission is to maximise the
potential of Australian soccer. To achieve this goal we have an expert coaching
development program in place. As well as developing technical ability, the clinics
teach children the importance of healthy eating and the right lifestyle. They also
learn about fitness and injury prevention. It’s about the whole picture – on and off
the pitch – in order to improve the quality of the game.