Loving, humble, very generous, straightforward and kind.
Those are just some of the words young athletes and sports associates used to describe the late Coach Agatupu Lefao during a memorial service held yesterday at Ligaliga Funeral Home in Motootua.
Affectionately called "Tupu" and "King" by those close to him, the beloved Samoa Gridiron Founder and Head Football Coach, who placed a strong emphasis on academics – has left a void in the hearts of the children he touched through Samoa Gridiron.
"This man has done so much for me," a male athlete from St. Joseph's said. "He has done just as much as my parents. He was a teacher, a coach, a father and a friend...unlike other coaches, he would never get mad when we don't turn up to training. He always showed grace. This is some stuff that is hard to forget because we don't find that many people around. He has given us so many pieces of advice and life lessons. He always looked at the bright side...he had so much love, so much respect for his players."
Tupu "saw something in every single one of us," the young man added, "he believed in us."
"We were all special to him," the player said. "I never got to thank him for all he has done for us. He was a giving man...he never liked taking stuff from us...when we spent money on him. He was always giving. He made this team because he believed that we will all be something one day. He thought of us and our futures. For some of us who lost our fathers, he was just like a father to us Thank you Tupu for all you've done. I wish you could hear me...we will try and reach what you always perceived for us."
A female quarterback in the programme, a student at Pesega, cried as she spoke about her coach.
"I met Coach Tupu when he came to our P.E.s (physical education) every Wednesday. I thought when the kids were like talking about football, I thought it was soccer so I wasn't as excited but then when I found out it was American Football, I got really excited and I got learn about this awesome sport," she said. "I'm the only girl quarterback in my class and so for me being the quarterback was kind of stressing but Coach Tupu made it so much easier."
When throws to her receiver weren't so great, "he would always tell me to try again and gave me advice to help me improve. And it helped so much," said the Pesega student.
"I'm just so grateful for him being willing to come to our school, to all our schools and just share what he knows," the female quarterback said. "It not only helps us in our sports but also our education. Even though I didn't know Coach Tupu that long, I had this connection with him and I'm so grateful for him and his example."
Tupu died last weekend but she found out Tuesday.
"I just really felt the spirit telling me he is in a better place and that we will see him again," the quarterback cried. " We all will see Coach Tupu again and his family can see him again too. I'm gonna miss him but I know he's in a better place."
In early July, Coach Tupu told Newsline Samoa that Samoa Gridiron's JV team was gearing up for a trip to play in American Samoa this month.
About 400 athletes participate in the programme that offers flag and tackle football plus tutoring in partnership with the U.S. Embassy, Nelson Memorial Public Library and the U.S. Peace Corps.
Coach Tupu played football as a young man and loved the game. He founded Samoa Gridiron to open up a pathway for athletes in Samoa to attend college and play in the U.S.A.
"When my nephew was in high school, I volunteered as a coach at his school and continued coaching til this day," he told Newsline. "Football is not forever but a good education opens up opportunities for life."
Callum Jones, Samoa Gridiron Coach and dear friend of Tupu continues the programme at Pesega and Marist Primary.
Funeral services for Agatupu Lefao will be held 9 a.m., Monday, 6 August, 2018 at the Anglican Church in Motootua. He will be interred in Saleimoa.
He is survived by his wife Selena and four children.
Student-athletes of Pesega at a memorial service held for Samoa Gridiron Head Coach Agatupu Lefao, Thursday, August 2, 2018, Ligaliga Funeral Home, Motootua. Photo: Tina Mata'afa-Tufele