BY JOHN HOUANIHAU
AS part of the Solomon Islands Women’s Football team, Madeline Arukau was recently part of the country’s national team that finished second behind Australia at the Pacific Women’s Four Nations Cup 2022 in Canberra.
From a simple girl living in the rural setting of Pipisu village in West Are ‘are, Malaita Province, Madeline emerged as a national footballer representing the country through hard work and perseverance.
Being the seventh child in the family of eight siblings. Madeline left early to complete her form 2 [secondary school education] at the Uhu Secondary School due to a lack of financial support from her parents. Despite being faced with such shortcomings, she developed a talent for sports, and playing football has been her dream ever since childhood.
In her early days in the village, Madeline caught the attention of her dad, Joachim Nihokeni, 62, who expressed his disappointment to see her daughter escaping household chores just to sit beside the village football field to watch evening football matches.
“That is her only interest and hobby. It’s all about playing football. You hardly see her peering up at girls. She spend a lot of her time with little boys playing soccer and later ended up in the evenings beside the football field to watch the boys play soccer,’’ Joachim recalled.
Without fear of social stigma, Madeline refused to quit her love for football, and later, she got the opportunity to play under the 2004 Solomon Islands Football Federation (SIFF) ‘Just Play Program’ which was introduced in West Are ‘are, which she impressed the SIFF’s technical officials with her playing skills.
“Madeline was first identified as a talented footballer in 2004 when the ‘Just Play Program’ was rolled out in West Are ‘are. She was 9 at that time. However, in 2014 a similar ‘Just Play Program’ led by the country’s iconic footballer, the late Commins Menapi was rolled out in Rohinary, West Are ‘are, she also took part in the program and had the opportunity to have a photo shot with late Menapi,” Madeline’s father told SOLOMON WOMEN.
At the recently concluded Pacific Women’s Four Nations Cup 2022 tournament, Madeline made history for herself and the country when she scored her first international goal against Fiji at Seiffert Oval in Queanbeyan, New South Wales. The crucial match created history for the girls after they came from behind to draw 1-1 with Fiji and secured the second position behind Australia at the Pacific Women’s Four Nations Cup 2022 in Canberra.
The rising footballer’s parents [mum and dad] congratulated their daughter on her success.
“We were very proud of our daughter, Madeline. For us, her football talents are a gift from God,” Madeline’s mum, Gabriella Suka’araha, 59, told SOLOMON WOMEN.
In a country where football is a male-dominated sport, Madeline serves as a shining example of how hard work can help one achieve their dreams. It shows that irrespective of the rural setting, given the opportunity even girls from the remotest corners of the country can make us proud.