Indigenous | Soccer

Ngāti Wai teenager signed for English Premier League

Marley Leuluai (Samoa/Māori) is contracted to a three-year deal with Burnley Football Club, which was promoted to the English Premier League last year.

The son of a former Samoan international rugby league player signed a professional football contract in England at just 17 years old.

Marley Leuluai (Ngāti Wai), is contracted to a three-year deal with Burnley Football Club, which was promoted to the English Premier League last year.

Marley was even happier when he got to sign on his 17th birthday and did it in style wearing a Samoan traditional necklace called the ‘Ula fala.’

“It’s an amazing feeling to sign, Obviously, signing it now means that they’re showing their value in me and having a real interest in me as a player. It’s not everything but I’m just happy to sign it,” Marley says.

The teenager led New Zealand in the Under-17 FIFA World Cup and he’s excited to train with his new team, Burnley, in the coming months.

Taking his dad’s advice

“It’s quite surreal to be honest when I go with them. Just when your coach tells you ‘you have to go train with the first team today or tomorrow’, it’s just like oh wow!”

Obviously, the coach (Vincent Company) when he comes over to me, he’s someone I’ve looked up to growing up in Manchester City,” he says.

He’s the son of former Samoan international and New Zealand Māori Rugby League player Kylie Leuluai.

Kylie played eight years in the UK Super League for Leeds Rhinos and won six titles.

He’s been sharing insights from his professional career with him.

“It’s not always about the money, A lot of it has got to do with pathways, what’s the clearest pathway to get to as high as possible which is the first team.

“In order for Marley to be taken seriously, they not only have to show you the money but if you do show Marley the money and the professional contract, it shows that you do value Marley and will give the best interest,” Kylie says.

Calls Whangaruru home

Kylie grew up in Whangaruru deep-sea diving and riding horses in the 1980s and says he loves taking his three children back home as they currently live in Manchester England.

Marley moved over to England when he was three weeks old and grew up watching the All Blacks, The Kiwis, and Toa Samoa.

His loyalty has always aimed at representing New Zealand in any sport as Whangaruru is a place where he calls his headquarters.

“I was there last Christmas, and we used to go there every year for Christmas when I was younger, I love it up there. I call that home over England,” Marley says.

Dad Kylie understands football is a quite different sport from rugby league where the majority of kicking a ball is done after the fifth tackle.

“You know, knowing the game to be involved with is just better. I’ll stick to just being a parent, staying back and giving him those lectures in the car after games,” Kylie jokingly said.

Following in the path of the football greats such as Samoan Time Cahill and Maori Winston Reid, Aotearoa may see Marley on the biggest stage of all.