Photo Credit: Football Federation American Samoa The new National League season in American Samoa kicked off this past weekend in Pago Pago, with the women’s league running alongside the men’s…
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A territory with just 70,000 people and an area of 199km², American Samoa is traditionally strong in sports such as gridiron, basketball and baseball but football holds its own among these popular pastimes.
The strength of the game is at the youth level where Football Federation American Samoa (FFAS) has worked hard to establish competitions within schools.
Under the tutelage of President Iuli Alex Godinet, FFAS is leading the way for sporting bodies in American Samoa in terms of organising tournaments for teenagers and school children.
As a result of this newly-implemented structure, the number of boys and girls playing football has now exceeded even those more established codes.
FFAS held a founding congress in November 2007 where it was recognised that American Samoa had regained its credibility during a two-year normalisation period after the formerly-named American Samoa Football Association (ASFA) had been dissolved.
American Samoa now has a strong foundation from which to grow football starting from the grassroots level. Looking at the elite level, American Samoa national teams still have some way to go to reach the heights of other Oceania nations.
But significant strides were made in the first phase of Oceania qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup when renowned Dutch coach Thomas Rongen led the national men’s team to an historic 2-1 victory over Tonga in November 2011, marking the country’s first ever win in World Cup qualifying. They also beat Tonga by the same score in 2015 as part of the qualification process for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Shalom Luani was one of the goal-scorers in that famous 2011 match and he has gone on to forge a successful gridiron career playing as a safety in the NFL in America.
The FIFA Goal Project was completed at Pago Pago Park in 2007 with new administration offices and playing fields allowing FFAS to increase football activities. The complex was significantly damaged by a powerful tsunami that struck in 2009 but, after a successful rebuilding phase, it was reopened during an official inauguration ceremony at the 21st OFC Ordinary Congress in January 2011.
The territory hosted the 2014 OFC Champions League Qualifying Stage which saw the top clubs from American Samoa, Samoa, Tonga and Cook Islands compete for a spot in the Pacific’s premier club competition.
The American Samoa U-20 men’s team also achieved a major milestone when they drew 1-1 with Papua New Guinea in 2014, thus earning the nation’s first ever competitive point in this men’s age group category.
In 2019, their U-19 women’s team went one better when they defeated Samoa 3-2 at the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship in the Cook Islands.
American Samoa’s improving national football fortunes were also immortalised in the 2014 documentary film, “Next Goal Wins”, marking the nation’s first ever victory in a FIFA World Cup qualifier.
In 2020, Godinet was re-elected as President of FFAS and will continue in the role he has held since 2008.
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