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Footballer’s Single Mom Flies From Australia to Surprise Him at His First Game in the US

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A teenage boy who had been picked out at high school for his football-playing prospects cried tears of joy when his single mom flew from Australia to surprise him at his first-ever game.


Having been born in the U.S., Max Leaitua-Tanuvasa, 16, moved with his family to Australia when he was only six months old.

But earlier this year, Max’s uncle Manaia – who still lives in the United States and is the football coach at West High School in Salt Lake City, Utah – chatted to his mom about her son’s opportunities to play the sport.

Max had wanted to head to the U.S. to experience a year of high school, and during a conversation about whether this might be possible, Max’s uncle asked his mom, Tina, if he could be in the U.S. by April so that he could make football season.

The teenager – who is 6’4″, weighs more than 250 pounds and excelled at playing rugby in Australia – arrived in late March, and over the months that followed, he learned the game, which he had never played.

When Max was ready for his first-ever game, proud mom Tina, 52, from Umina Beach, New South Wales, who had never missed one of her son’s big games in Australia, proud mom Tina, 52, from Umina Beach, New South Wales, was desperate to be there.


But having spent a lot of money on Max’s trip, football fees and gear, Tina was struggling to make the trip work financially.

Max playing rugby
Max playing rugby in his native Australia. ©T&T Creative Media
Max reunites and hugs his mom
Max bursts into tears as he sees his mom (left) and the pair hug (right). ©T&T Creative Media

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A friend of Tina’s heard about Max’s story, though, and offered to buy her a plane ticket.

As a foil for the surprise, Tina said that she had sent some of Max’s items from Australia to a friend who would be heading to Los Angeles in a few week’s time.


That friend, “Julian,” would drop the items off where Max was staying as part of a trip to California, only for Tina to come in for the big surprise.

The moment took place on August 18 at a hotel where Max was staying in Anaheim.

As soon as he saw his mom, the teenager began to cry tears of joy, showing how much it meant to him to have his mother there for his footballing debut.

Tina at Max's first football game.
Tina at Max’s first football game. ©T&T Creative Media
Max poses after his game ends.
Max poses after his game ends. ©T&T Creative Media

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Having watched the game, Tina then spent a few days with her son, hanging out and catching up on his life in the U.S.


Tina, who shared a video of the surprise on TikTok, said: “His reaction was not what I expected – I thought he would just laugh and ask, “What are you doing here?”

“But to see him crying meant he really missed me, and it was a genuine surprise to him. 

“Even after filming, he kept hugging me and crying. 

Max poses with his mom Tina. ©T&T Creative Media

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“I felt overwhelmed by his reaction; he’s a true mummy’s boy.

“The response to the video has been amazing, with everyone saying, especially moms, how they cried watching it. 

“They could see the bond between us and how much love we have. 

“I am a single parent; Max has only had me and his older sister all his life.”

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