Seini Lutu was already a shining light for women’s football in Tonga but she has well and truly written her name in the history books after becoming the first female Tongan footballer to receive a scholarship to study and play abroad.
The captain of the Tonga U-16 national team is now completing her studies in New Zealand at Maclean College in Auckland, and also playing with east Auckland club Fencibles United.
Lutu started playing mixed football when she was young and hated missing a session of the OFC Just Play programme. Every Saturday she was at the academy with her little brother to join the Just Play activities and she continued to play with her cousins as she got older.
Lutu showed from a young age that she didn’t care who she was playing with, so long as she got to play.
The first time Lutu represented Tonga was in 2014 at the OFC U-20 Women’s Championship which was held in Auckland, New Zealand. She was then selected to the 2015 OFC Women’s U-20 Championship followed by the 2016 OFC Women’s U-17 Championship in the Cook Islands.
In 2017 she was once again called up to national duty, captaining the U-16 Tonga side at the Championship in Samoa as well as appearing for the U-19 squad in New Zealand.
“I thought it is a dream when my mom called me one afternoon in the New Year to say I will go to New Zealand and study at Maclean College,” Lutu said.
“As soon as I heard the name of the school, Maclean College, I remembered that we went and played at this school in one of our build-up games before the OFC Women’s U-19 Championship last year in Auckland.
“I remembered that I really played so well during that game and we won,” Lutu added.
Tonga U-19 women’s coach, Kalisitiane Koaneti was very pleased with Lutu’s performance in this particular game and he started up the negotiations the Maclean College.
“It first started with a conversation that I had with Maclean’s coach; Dan, when the school board & players’ parents hosted us in an appreciation dinner for accepting their invitation to play a friendly match,” Koaneti said.
“Prior to the occasion there wasn’t any thoughts on the issue, Seini getting any scholarship, but after seeing Seini’s performance on that day that’s when the dice starts rolling.”
“One can say that it was an informal agreement at first but after several weeks of e-mail follow-ups with Dan & Seini’s family the school board decided that Seini would be an asset to the school from a sporting aspect,” Koaneti said.
“She’s a unique player with much to prove. When she plays in her right mind it’s just beautiful to see. With the right environment and a positive support system I have no doubt she’ll go all the way.
“All in all I couldn’t be more proud of her for leading by example for all young women in football to follow,” said Koaneti.
Koaneti is still in contact with Lutu to give more encouragement as she is in new school, new environment, new friends and new team mates.
Lutu’s mother, Joyce Lutu expressed her gratitude to Tonga Football for all their assistance towards her daughter.
“If they did not believe in my daughter with her talent she wouldn’t be at Maclean College today.”