In October 2015 during the OFC U-20 Women’s Championship in Tonga a message popped up in my inbox from a young Vanuatu footballer by the name of Priscilla Charley.
Like many before her, and many after, she was after images of her from her debut tournament representing Vanuatu. I’m always happy to help in these situations but there was something special about this girl.
She scored her first international goal in a 3-3 draw with Samoa and followed that up with a goal in the 2-2 draw with their hosts Tonga. In each match you saw the pride at representing her nation, with each goal the unbridled joy at contributing to the team effort and respect for beliefs as she looked to above. When Vanuatu picked up a bronze medal, like her teammates, Priscilla was on cloud nine.
But playing football, where she was a burgeoning talent, wasn’t Priscilla’s only interest. On that evening back in October 2015, Priscilla wasn’t just reaching out for some photos, she was looking for a mentor.
When she wasn’t on the field Priscilla was wandering with a camera around her neck capturing her friends, her family and recording moments in time.
When she announced her desire to become a journalist, I was delighted. When she said: “What should I do to become like you?”, my stomach tied itself in a knot but I was ready and willing to help.
She continued: “You are my number one journalist on this planet earth”, and I thought ‘is she having a laugh?’ But she wasn’t, not at all. Because something significant I learnt about Priscilla is that she was genuine. While I may not have that same belief in myself, she was certain that if she wanted to be a football journalist, hitching her cart to my horse was the way to do it.
Talented, driven, ambitious, Priscilla had what it takes to be brilliant. Unfortunately less than12 months later, Priscilla had passed away.
It was a huge shock to me and I still think about her often. What would she could have achieved on and off the field? I wish like anything I could have seen her sitting alongside her media colleagues in France last year calling the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Bislama, or in stadiums across Oceania telling the stories of talented footballers, just like her.
I chose today to write about her because July 7 was her birthday and it felt important to honour her as part of the fabric that makes up women’s football in Oceania. For me, she’s a reminder to make time for others, to share knowledge and encourage others and most importantly, how essential it is to build a supportive community.
Priscilla, mi sori we mi no lukum yu longtaem. Lukim yu nekis taem, I love you smol sister, hapi betdei xx