FFAS local national teams in final preparations for Pacific Games
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Despite the many challenges the Football Federation of American Samoa (FFAS) has had to surmount with regard to players, preparations of the men’s and women’s national teams for the upcoming 17th Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands are in the final stages.
According to the Head Coach of the Women’s national team Fogalevai Tunoa Lui, many of his players have not had any international exposure prior to joining.
The last international game the women’s team played was against Samoa in the 2019 Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa where they drew 1-all and only 8 players from that 23-member squad are included in the team getting ready to compete in the Solomon Islands in the next two weeks.
He explained that many members of the 2019 squad have relocated to the mainland for either schooling or work.
A total of 20 players including three 17 year-olds will be traveling to the Games and Coach Fogalevai stated that they have been undergoing intensive training for the past two weeks in an effort to get their fitness level up to par.
He pointed out that the local soccer association has a limited number of players to choose from on-island because not many people especially females are involved in soccer and some have opted to play in other sports like softball and basketball.
The women’s coach said that the only other option was to recruit players from the mainland to boost the standard of play and the overall ranking of American Samoa in the Oceania region but certain problems have prevented that from eventuating.
“The timing of the Games and the three-week duration that the team will have to stay in the Solomon Islands for, does not fit in with the schedule of those who are schooling while others cannot get leave from work for that long,” Coach Lui said. “So we have to go with the players we have although many are rookies having their international debut.”
Head Coach Fogalevai Tunoa Lui is supported by Assistant Coach Si’ulepa Grey, while the team manager is Tavita Taumua.
The situation with the men’s team is slightly more optimistic, with players’ fitness level on a high due to a very competitive league this year according to Head Coach Reuben Luvu.
Also, many of the players were part of the Under-19 squads that competed in Oceania tournaments in Tahiti in January and Fiji in March this year.
The men’s national squad preparing for the 17th Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands comprises 21 players, all but one are Samoan. He is 17 year-old high school student of Korean descent — Daniel Lee.
Coach Luvu told Samoa News that while he is happy with his players’ fitness level and skills, he knows that he will have to start all over again in getting the next batch of players ready for the international arena, when his current players leave for the mainland for schooling or employment.
“That is the recurring problem we have every year,” Luvu revealed. “We can’t maintain a good competitive side because our players emigrate to the mainland, then we have to train the next generation. It’s very frustrating.”
He supported the need to recruit players from the mainland to boost the standard and morale of the teams which represent American Samoa in international fixtures like the Pacific Games.
Also, keep in mind, for the Pacific Games, you have to have a US national or US passport to play on Team American Samoa.
“Other Pacific islands that are territories of other countries or who have close political affiliations with the other countries like French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Guam and Niue have been recruiting players from those countries in their national teams,” Luvu pointed out. “That’s because they have the same passports. French Polynesia has been doing that for a long time, using French citizens to play for them which is why they are always on the upper part of the medal tally.”
The men’s head coach reiterated the need to have off-island players who are used to playing much more competitive games to help local players in honing their skills and mindset.
The teams will be leaving with the rest of the Territory’s delegation to the 17th Pacific Games on November 14th on a Solomon Islands Airways special flight, which has been chartered to fly from Pago Pago to Honiara.
Five sports, namely Soccer, Basketball, Volleyball, Tennis and Table Tennis will be the first to start their competitions before the Games’ opening ceremony, which will take place on Sunday Nov. 19, 2023.
The women’s national soccer team will take to the field first against Papua New Guinea on Nov. 17, New Caledonia on November 20th and against the Cook Islands on Nov. 23.
The men’s team will have their first game against Samoa on Nov. 20 and their second game against the Solomon Islands on Nov. 23.