Midfielder Carmel Úhila may not be based in Tonga, but she holds great pride at representing the nation of her ancestors.
Úhila, who is living in Auckland and attending St. Cuthbert’s College, is currently representing Tonga at the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship.
It’s her second time playing for the country after making her debut during the OFC U-17 Women’s Championship 2016 in the Cook Islands and the excitement of playing for Tonga hasn’t worn off.
‘’I really wanted to play for Tonga and when I found out I was selected, I was very excited and happy to be in the team, especially because the tournament is held here in Auckland,’’ she says.
‘’I did a lot of training with my school football team also with my football club, Central United.
‘It is so cool as my school is very supportive and they are proud to have someone in the national side.’’
Juggling her sporting achievements with academics isn’t easy for the 16-year-old, but Úhila says the support she receives from the people around her helps.
‘’I don’t find any difficulties with my education, as my teachers put extra effort in preparing my notes and provide some of my assignments ahead of time. My coach at school football team also have extra training with me in term of preparing for this tournament, and I’m so grateful for their effort in supporting me,’’ she added.
The past few months, the Tonga team prepared in Tonga while ‘Uhila remained in Auckland, joining up with her international teammates when they arrived for the tournament.
‘’I feel really proud to the Tongan jersey, it also comes with a lot of pride to represent Tonga .’’
Úhila is also selected to be in the Tonga team for the upcoming OFC U-16 Women’s Championship which is scheduled in Samoa from the 4th – 25th August 2017.
‘’I am so excited and looking forward to the tournament in Samoa, and there are six girls in the U-19 will join me in Samoa which I am also looking forward to.
‘’I wish to thank Tonga Football for the opportunity that allows me to represent Tonga, I know it is not an easy decision to put together a team.
‘’It is possible to represent your country even if you live abroad but you have to work hard to earn a place in the team,’’ she added.
The Tongan head coach, Kalisitiane Koaneti is also proud of Carmel’s selection to the Tonga U-16 for the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship in Samoa.
‘’I really support Carmel to be in the Tonga U-16 team, as she is one of my key player sin this tournament,’’ Koaneti said.
‘’I wish to congratulate her and the rest of my girls that will go down to U-16 and urge them to continue to do their best in the U-16 tournament even though I am not the head coach,’’ he says.
At the conclusion of the OFC U-19, Úhila will travel to Tonga to join the Tonga U-16 women’s team for their final preparations before they head up to Samoa.