Clocking the OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 and earning the chance to compete against some of the leading sides in the world for a berth at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia New Zealand 2023™ is just part of a much bigger picture for Fiji captain Sofi Diyalowai.
The 28-year-old has played a key role in raising the profile of women’s football in Fiji courtesy of some outstanding performances for club and country over the course of her career.
While she’s acted as both provider and scorer from her position in the centre of the park, Diyalowai is also focused on ensuring the Kulas’ perform well enough to inspire young girls across Fiji to take up the game in some form.
“When you enter the pitch, you forget about everything. The only thing you think about is the ball and the game – that’s the beauty of football,” Diyalowai told Fiji FA.
“What always helped me to come through tough and difficult situations, was to play football. Through football I have learned a lot about team building, staying together, having networks, friendships, happiness and a feeling of freedom. It empowers every woman around the world who plays this game,” she said.
The Labasa FC player has been on the national team roster since 2010 and has also added refereeing to her repertoire in more recent years.
“As a player we also have to know the rules and the Laws of the Game, so as a referee it’s easy for me to play the game.
“I joined the Labasa Referees Association which helps keep me focused on my fitness as I have to go through a fitness test every month,” she said.
“I don’t think being a referee is difficult, it’s actually very interesting.”
Adding to the growing list of aspiration career moves, Diyalowai became the first female Fijian footballer to trial in France, thanks to former national team coach Christophe Gamel.
“The trial with Reims FC wasn’t easy. I had to face a lot of players and challenges over the three-and-a-half weeks I was there, but I learned many new things which I’ve tried to share with my teammates back here in Fiji.”
As a team, Fiji have not only hit headlines for their impressive performances’, but also for the beautiful and uniting pre-match ceremony they go through in the changing rooms.
“I think most of the time before the game we sing a hymn to encourage the players before they go out on the field,” the captain said.
“Sometimes, I think the one that is most inspiring is a spiritual song that encourages the players to have courage during the game, to give their all for the jersey and for the country.”