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First for a Fijian player

Vodafone Fiji women’s team rep Sofi Diyalowai Vunibola is the first Fijian footballer to go for trials in France.

Fiji Football Association president Rajesh Patel said it was a great opportunity for Sofi to show her class in France.

“It is a huge achievement for Sofi and Fiji Football as whole as she is the first Fijian footballer selected for trails in France,”

Patel said she would attend nine days of trials with French Ligue 1 club Reims.

“She will join the team that got promoted to the top division in French League and if she is successful in her trials she will become a professional footballer,” said Patel

Patel confirmed that National football coach Gamel would accompany her to the trials as he is the one who initiated the talks with the Reims Club coach for Sofi to showcase her talents.

“Our national football coach Christophe Gamel will be there to oversee her trials which is an advantage,”

He said Fiji Football Association would take care of all expenses for the trials.

“Fiji FA is fully supporting her in all needs for this trials and we wish her all the best,” said Patel.

Sofi believes football can open new avenues and boost self-esteem for the Fijian girls if it is taken seriously.

“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,” said Vunibola.

“What always helped me to come through that tough and difficult situation was to play football.”

Football has always been a passion for 25- year old Vunibola but she never imagined she might get a chance again to represent the country at this age and get an opportunity to go for trials in France.

“I can’t believe it, I feel like it’s a dream,” that I have been selected to attend the trials in France.

“It’s exciting and I am looking forward to do my best”.

Her football career started when she moved from Bua province to Labasa and joined Labasa Sangam Primary School.

“I didn’t dreamt of playing football then but with the support of my school mates I started playing football and love it, “said Sofi.

“Through football I have learnt a lot and have made lots of friends”

“It’s all about team building, staying together, having networks, having friendship, happiness and feeling freedom. It empowers every woman around the world who plays this game.”

When I was playing for my secondary school team in Labasa, my dad always used to encourage me from the sideline. He’d sit on the side line and always cheer me, Go Sofi Go.’

Shaydo as she is known by her teammates said she was always supported by her families and friends as she pursued her career in football.

“While playing for the Labasa Women team, I was selected to represent Fiji national women’s U16 team but we could not tour because it was cancelled but I was again given opportunity to play for my country in 2010 during the OFC Women’s Championship in New Zealand.”

The Bua lass since 2010 is been part of the national women’s football team and featured in all the Oceania Championship and South Pacific Games.

Vunibola believes her age is not a hurdle in her career as she always keeps herself physically fit.

‘I am 25 and I think my age is not a factor for me as I always train hard to keep my fitness for sport I love to play.”

“I have joined Labasa Referees Association which keeps more concerned about my fitness as I have to go through fitness test every month, “she said.

Vunibola comes from a football family as her dad played for Savusavu and Labasa team while her brother Iliesa Lino played for Lautoka and now Labasa team.

The trials will be conducted from May 9 to 18.

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