William Sangster and Grace Tinetali-Fiavaai
Three Pacific women take to the global stage at the FIFA Women's World Cup
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Three Samoan women are taking to the global stage at the FIFA Women's World Cup and making a mark for the Pacific Community.
The most well-known is CEO Sarai Bareman, but there are also other Samoan women who have been playing significant roles, including Football Fern Malia Steinmetz and announcer Arizona Leger, who worked as a stadium announcer.
Leger is Maori (Te Rarawa, Whakatohea), Samoan (Nofoali'i), Fijian (Lautoka), and Tongan - she proudly calls herself a daughter of Moana (a child of Oceania).
“One thing I know for sure is that I didn't get here on my own; it truly does take a village.
“The line ‘I'm a part of all that I've met’ would be the best testament to the village that has influenced my journey so far.”
Part of that is due to the challenges Leger has had to face as an Indigenous woman.
“The key challenge is that there aren't enough of us in the arena.”
Leger wants to increase the Pacific's presence in sporting spaces in order to provide a viable career path for a large number of Oceanian women and girls.
“The responsibility is now to open the door and prepare the arena for our future generation to shine.”
Leger has some advice advice for other women wanting to enter the sporting industry.
“Never underestimate how important it is to believe in yourself and emphasise the importance of collaboration over competition.
“There is so much room for all of us to be great and shine.”
Sarai Bareman (42) is CEO of FIFA women's football.
She is Dutch on her father's side and on her mother's side she comes from the villages of Matatufu and Lotofaga in Samoa.
She is the first woman from any Pacific Island to hold the position of FIFA Chief Women's Football Officer and has had her fair share of challenges.
“I think the biggest challenge is as a female working in a male-dominated industry.
“As a woman, you often have to work twice as hard as men to prove your worth, and this can be challenging.
In the end, I didn't allow those challenges to deter me and instead used them as motivation - but it's testing and can feel very lonely.”
Malia Steinmetz (24) has Samoan heritage and is among the first players of Pacific origin to appear on the field at the World Cup.
Steinmetz's path to senior international football was difficult.
She says the increased expectations and her own doubts about her place in the world as a Samoan-Kiwi made it difficult, but she now takes pride in being a role model.
Sarai Bareman believes the biggest thing the Pacific nations need to do to grow football sustainably is to make sure there is good off the field as well.
“The talent on the field in our region is undeniable, but what so often lets us down is poor governance structures.”
Hero image: Steinmetz's in the Norway game at this year's world cup. Photo / New Zealand Football