Digicel Kula girls skipper Sofi Diyolowai and sensational striker Cema Nasau are participating in the trials with the USA National Women’s Soccer League club, Orlando Pride.
Orlando Pride, which has Brazilian stars Marta and Adriana on its roster, has taken the Fijian duo under its wings for an intensive three week trial.
Former Kulas girls coach Lisa Cole had got in touch with Orlando Pride General Manager Haley Carter, who was instrumental in organising the trial with support from Fiji FA women’s vice president Naziah Ali Krishna, who identified the two players with great potential.
Diyalowai said she has found the experience a real eye opener.
“The first day I arrived at the sports facility, I was nervous to meet up with the players. But they were really kind and sociable and made us feel welcome. For the first training session I was not ready because of the long travel from Fiji to Florida. Training in their facilities, the ground was so good not like back in Fiji, for me it was a really good experience,” Diyalowai said, OFC reports.
“Some of the players didn’t know where Fiji is and they wanted to know how big Fiji is and we told them it’s a tiny island in the Pacific and very beautiful. Now they all want to come to visit,” she said.
For Diyalowai, who already trialed at French Ligue One club Stade De Reims in 2019, this trial has been a huge learning curve.
“We have to work on our ball work and fast play, our touches and mentality during game time and training, time management and fitness.”
“For me it’s a higher standard of play, and when you come to a professional team like this it’s very hard but it’s enjoyable because the pace of the game is different from back at home.”
Nasau added she is confident they have the skillset to perform in a professional environment if given the chance.
“Yes, we do believe in ourselves. Yeah, we can do this by just continuing to work hard during training on our skills and our fitness.”
“The way they train is totally different from Fiji. They’re fast-paced when they have the ball and they are so good on their feet. They do specific activations.”
Pride general manager Haley Carter says it’s about the players gaining experience of what a professional, high-performance environment looks and feels like so they can help educate their teammates back home.
“We give them the opportunity to evaluate themselves, and where they think they fall out on a scale of one to seven, seven being a national team athlete, in each of those skill set areas, and when we sat with our Assistant Coach Yolanda, (Thomas) and I sat with him and explained, you have to evaluate yourself in the context of here, not in the context of Fiji.”
“Now that you know what the professional environment is like, you have to evaluate yourself based on this environment, not based on how well you play against other Fijians.”
“And another thing we did that’s a little bit different with Sofi and Cema, is we’ve had them sit down and think about what are the things they feel like they did well? What are the things they feel like they weren’t prepared for? And then what are three or four things that they’re going to go back and teach others when they get to Fiji?
Carter indicated the club would keep in close contact with the two Fijian players over the next six months and indicated whether or not they sign with the Pride, there will be professional opportunities with professional women’s football in an incredible growth phase.