“Our competition will kick off this Saturday, just five days away from the two-year anniversary of the tsunami that badly damaged our facilities here,” Football Federation American Samoa President Iuli Alex Godinet says.
“It is a good feeling for all of FFAS, from our executive committee to our staff, clubs and especially the players, to be able to play on our very own field again.”
American Samoa’s ‘Home of Football’ was in the direct path of the 2009 tsunami that killed 33 people in the small Pacific Island nation including 11 in Pago Pago. The headquarters were badly damaged while FFAS groundsman Paepae Soia Su was lucky to escape with his life after he was swept 100 metres before clinging to a tree for survival.
Paepae became one of those who exemplified the spirit of the community, going straight back to work to lead the clean-up efforts.
The damage has now been repaired thanks to phases II and III of the country’s FIFA Goal Project – an initiative by FIFA to help national associations around the world improve their facilities. The playing surface at the ground has also been improved and extensions made to the FFAS building.
The completion of the work was celebrated during the 21st OFC Ordinary Congress, held in Pago Pago in January, with an official inauguration ceremony, overseen by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and Governor of American Samoa Togiola Tulafono.
“We are greatly thankful to FIFA for providing us with the funds for our association to rebuild and improve the facilities here at Pago Park,” President Godinet says.
“We had an historic visit by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, OFC President David Chung and all the OFC member association presidents earlier this year for the re-opening of FFAS and now to finally host the first competition in our ‘House of Football’ caps off a good year for us.”
Nestled between spectacular peaked mountains, the FFAS headquarters were constructed in 2007 after phase I of the FIFA Goal Project was approved and USD 868,000 worth of FIFA and OFC funding was put towards the project. Phase II was approved on 2 June 2009 but the tsunami tragedy in September halted all development efforts.
The response from FIFA and OFC was immediate with a further USD 400,000 pledged to FFAS for the rehabilitation. Works commenced on 7 July 2010 by contractors Vuksich and Borich, Paramount Construction Ltd and Perelini Consultants Ltd as FIFA Development Manager for Oceania Serge Dumortier and FIFA Development Officer Glenn Turner managed the ambitious venture. With the addition of insurance money, the total value of the project came to an impressive USD 1.2 million.
The 2010 FFAS National League season was held at a field owned by the Kananafou Theological Seminary and President Godinet is thankful to have been given use of that facility.
“We are eternally grateful to the leaders of Kananafou for allowing us to use their fields for all of our programmes,” he says. “This is not the end of our relationship as I know we will still need to use the field from time to time.”
The improvements to Pago Park includes extending the playing area to fit in a pair of international-sized fields and FFAS CEO Tavita Taumua believes this may result in changes to the style of play.
“Tactics-wise, I think this will allow our teams to open up their games a bit more, rather than having to make do on the small, cramped fields we used to use,” Taumua says. “Our technical staff and I are looking forward to seeing this as it will – in the long run – help our national teams of the future.”
For more on American Samoa football go to www.ffas.as