Mate Ma'a Tonga match to unite Kingdom after tough period

Source: 1News

Mate Ma’a Tonga fans are relishing the chance to support their team when they face the Kiwis, with the occasion uniting people after a tough six months for the Pacific kingdom.

In the last six months, Tonga has been rocked with a volcanic eruption, tsunami and Covid-19, with people ready to finally have something to be proud of as their men and women's teams face the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns on Saturday.

As one supporter at a fan day in Ōtāhuhu on Wednesday explained, they feel "humbled that they (the player) have chosen to come to play for our tiny Kingdom of Tonga".

The last time Tonga played an international Test against New Zealand was on June 22, 2019.

"We are so proud to support our team but win or lose, it doesn’t matter - we just like to support our people," another fan said.

"With the tsunami and everything it’s good to see everybody come and unite us once again," a fan said.

"We aren’t able to go home so it’s good to have the community here coming together."

The Mate Ma’a Tonga players have also not been left in any doubt about how much it means to their battle worn community.

In preparation for a big weekend, players attended a kava ceremony to accept the promise that they will "give your life for Tonga".

Community leader Pakilau Manase Lua delivered a powerful message for the players, encouraging them to leave everything out on the field.

"Make us proud, never forget where you are from and who you represent. If you are not ready you shouldn’t be sitting here, here is the door," he said.

Tongan player Sione Tuipulotu says the match will be a time of celebration and union.

"It’s such a huge honour. There was a tsunami there so just to see the Tongan boys come up against New Zealand, it will definitely lift the spirits of the Tongan people back home," Tuipulotu said.

Player Tevita Ha’angana said: "Hopefully this should bring some sort of joy to the people and alleviate the stress."