Manu 7s Player who Missed his Father’s Funeral will Work Hard to Fulfill his Dad’s Last Wish

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A Manu Samoa 7’s player who could not be by his father’s side when he passed away two weeks ago, says he will always keep close to his heart, his father’s last wish for him; to pursue his talent in rugby.

L: Malo with his Dad Luteru on the day he left for Dubai. R: Malo with Luteru at the airport before he left for Under 18s in 2019.

Malo Alani Luteru was in Dubai with the Manu Samoa 7’s side when his mom called to tell him the bitter news that his father had passed away.

Unable to travel home, Malo expressed his heartbreak on a social media post that was felt by all, as the 20 year old shared the pain of not being home with his mom and siblings during a most difficult time.

“I wish I could be there for your last day here on earth before you go to be with our Lord. I wish I could be there to say farewell to you Dad, but we are apart because of your wishes that I pursue my rugby..”

“Maimau pe ana ou iai i lou aso mulimuli Dad, ta fia faamavae atu ia te oe si o’u tamā ae te lei malaga e faatasi atu ma Le Alii, ae paga lea, o loo tā valavala ona o le faamoemoe sa e naunau ina ia ‘ou o’o iai.”

Luteru arrives home to Uafato for his final service, Wed 25 May 2022. Photo: SGN.

When the 20-year-old from BBE Vaiala was called into the Manu Samoa 7’s as one of two replacements for the squad camped in Dubai, he had known that his father’s health was deteriorating.

Malo struggled with the decision to join the Manu Samoa 7’s, or stay with his ailing father.

But for Malo’s father, Luteru Luteru of Uafato, Fagaloa – the decision was final and he was not going to have it any other way. He encouraged his son to go, and urged him to follow his dreams and pursue his talent in the sport that they all loved to watch and follow.

Luteru’s last words to Malo, as they bid farewell on that Sunday 1st May 2022, would resonate with the young player for years to come.

Pursue your talent, says Luteru to his son Malo. Sunday 1st May 2022.

“Come now, dear son, and be on your way.. go and follow your dreams, and pursue your talent from God.. this is an opportunity that does not come around easily.”

“Sau ia si o’u atalii pele, inā e alu ia, e tuliloa lau miti ma tauave lau taleni mai Le Alii.. o nei avanoa, e le ‘aumaua.”

Malo was emotional when he said goodbye to his father on that Sunday, and he prayed his dad would stay well until the team returned to Samoa. However, Malo was just two weeks in Dubai when he received the news of Luteru’s passing.

Malo sent a farewell message for his Dad from Dubai, and vouched to keep his father’s last wish close to his heart – the wish for his son to keep the Manu Samoa dream alive.

Reverend Elder Asotasi Gu Time of Uafato EFKS leads Luteru’s final service.

“I will keep your wish close to me. You said that this is what you wanted for me.. even when you were facing illness, Dad..”

“Ou te teu mauina lou manaoga sa e mana’o mai ai mo a’u, a’o e feagai ma ma’i o le tino, Dad..”

From Dubai, Malo sent a message to his family in Uafato – asking that his precious jerseys, accumulated in the first few years his young career, be placed on Luteru’s coffin.

He said his father was always so proud of the jerseys that were displayed in their home, and he wanted more than anything for his father to take them all with him.

Four jerseys placed on Luteru’s coffin. Uafato village, Wed 25 May 2022. Photo: SGN.

Malo takes us through the story behind his jerseys that his father has taken with him, which must now be hanging amongst heaven’s rugby memorabilia.

“The Zone A jersey was from when we won the Champ of Champs..and then there’s my Super 4 jersey playing for Manono..  and my Under 18’s jersey from 2019.. the fourth was a jersey that was gifted to me,” said Malo.

The first jersey was worn by Malo Luteru when he represented Leifiifi College in Zone A of the national school-boy rugby finals in 2019. Zone A were the rugby Champs of Champs, and Malo Luteru was awarded the Best Player of the Tournament that year.


 


Following that successful year of school-boy rugby, Malo was then selected into the 2019 Baby Manu Under 18s squad. His Under 18s Manu jersey has also gone with his Dad.

Malo Luteru then played for Manono during the local Super 4 Lakapi Championship held by the Samoa mother union in 2020. Playing at fullback, Malo was instrumental in Manono’s championship win that year.

Amongst the 120 local players in the Super 4 Championship, Malo Luteru was again, named Best Player of the Tournament after his performance was noted by selectors in the finals. The jersey from that competition was also carefully placed on Luteru’s coffin.

Luteru arrives at Uafato village in Fagaloa to a guard of honour formed by the women’s committee. Photo: SGN.

Malo’s home in the village of Uafato is nestled between the ocean and the steep mountain ranges of Fagaloa.

Mountain ranges surrounding the village of Uafato in Samoa. Photo: SGN.

Getting to Uafato is not for a faint-hearted driver, as the road that leads to the village is steep as it leads to the top of the mountain range, before a deep-drop descend as the winding road finds the coastline.

When Luteru’s body arrived at Uafato for burial, a guard of honour was formed by the women’s committee who had come to sing final hymns and bid him farewell.

Luteru is carried by Malo’s older brothers and cousins to their EKFS parish nearby. Photo: SGN.

After a short stop in his family home, Luteru was carried to his beloved EFKS church, just about 100 metres from his home.

Malo’s dad was a long serving church deacon, and his final service was led by Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (CCCS) Chairman, Reverend Elder Asotasi Gu Time.

Reverend Elder Asotasi Gu Time.

The EFKS Elder and current Chair of the Church Board has been the pastor of Uafato EFKS since 1991. He spoke affectionately about his deacon, as a man of quiet demeanour who worked hard for his family, making traditional handicrafts and cava, which Fagaloa is famous for.

“He was a most humble man, who never let anything bother him. I have never seen Luteru get angry in all these years,” said Rev Asotasi.

Malo Luteru is very close to their family’s pastor, and the pastor’s sons treat the up-and-coming rugby player like their own little brother. Reverend Asotasi’s late son, Isamaeli Time, was a mentor to Malo, and took him to the BBE Vaiala Ulalei club after he completed high school.

Malo’s aunty (L) and his mother Mamele (R) holding up photos of Malo and the late Luteru.

During the funeral service, Reverend Asotasi comforted Malo’s mother, Mamele Luteru, and conveyed Malo’s message of love from Dubai. “Sa ma talanoa ma Malo, o la e alofa tele mai.”

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The Manu Samoa Sevens arrive back into Samoa today. Next on their playing agenda is to join the SASNOC led Team Samoa to represent the nation at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK scheduled for August.

Speaking to SGN from Auckland before the team departed, Malo said he was looking forward to coming home to see his mother and siblings.

It will no doubt be an emotional arrival for Malo, to return home since the passing of his father. He says one of Reverend Asotasi’s sons would be picking him up from Faleolo airport for the long drive home to Uafato.

In the five months that the Manu Samoa 7’s have been away, its management and players have made a huge personal sacrifice, and many of them have missed out on special occasions and important family events. Assistant Coach, Tausa Faamaoni Lalomilo had also lost his father-in-law whom he was very close to, during the months away from Samoa.

During the Manu Samoa 7s qualifier tour in 2021, Co-Captain Vaovasa Afa Su’a had also missed his father’s passing.


Sina Retzlaff