Ha’apai hosts its first Heilala Manongi mini-tournament

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The Heilala Manongi women’s football project in Tonga has continued to hit milestones with the Ha’apai island group the latest to benefit.

The project launched across Tonga in August, after being held up by the pandemic, and with the first four weeks of training complete a mini-tournament was held to celebrate the achievement.

Ha’apai is the only island group opting to develop beach soccer, rather than traditional football, through Heilala Manongi and Tonga Women’s Football Development Officer Adelaide Tu’ivailala said it’s been an exciting period for the programme.

“In Ha’apai they have chosen to make beach soccer the main focus for development and that includes for women’s football.

“It was really exciting to see the girls and young ones enjoying the mini-tournament, showcasing their new skills.

Heilala Manongi mini-tournament in Ha’apai.

“I believe the tournament was also a chance to attract new players to the programme, as people saw what was on offer and how much fun the participants were having.”

Tu’ivailala said the project has a set curriculum which includes skills development, with the product of that learning on display.

“What was good to see is the girls weren’t just kicking and chasing the ball, it showed that the coaches are sticking to the curriculum and the girls have been practicing.”

The mini-tournament saw the participating teams split into two groups which followed a round-robin format before the knockout stages.

Ha’ato’u U-16 claimed the inaugural title, with Panagai coming second and Fangale’ounga II finishing third.

The Ha’apai branch will host three further mini-tournaments this year leading up to the national tournament to be held in Tongatapu in January 2021. One team from Ha’apai will attend the national tournament joined by three Tongatapu teams, three teams from Vava’u and one team from Eua.

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