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Colourful opening to American Samoa summer league

PAGO PAGO: The Kanana Fou grounds was a sea of colours last Saturday morning as a record crowd of more than a thousand, consisting of enthusiastic soccer players from six to 20 years old, their parents, relatives and guardians turned up to kick off the 2004 American Samoa Football Association (ASFA) Summer Soccer League.

Coordinated by the American Samoa Football Association (ASFA), the league will run until the July 24 and is divided into five age categories.

The 6-8 and 9-11 categories are open to mixed teams, while the 12-14 and 18-20 categories have male and female competitions. The 15-17 category on the other hand has only boys teams.

The categories with the most teams registered are the 9-11, 12-14 and the 18-20 categories and are divided into two pools.

According to the tournament director Naomi Lokeni-Oney, 50 teams have registered for this year’s summer league, which is the largest number that have registered in this annual sports fixture sponsored and coordinated by ASFA.

“Last year, there were only 42 teams,” said the tournament director. “But the increase in that number confirms the popularity of soccer in the territory which is very heart-warming, because it is these young players we are targeting to develop, nurture and coach for the future.”

“The opening ceremony was scheduled for 8:30am on Saturday but by 8am, a lot of these young players were already running around in their uniforms warming up for the starting whistle! I want to thank the parents and who turned up in numbers to support and cheer their kids.”

Lokeni-Oney continued saying that this is the first summer league that the new ASFA administration is coordinating since they have been in office, and that they are currently compiling data of each individual player.

“It’s a painstaking but necessary job because we must have records of our players for future reference,” she explained.

The league was officially opened with a short prayer delivered by Rev. Ioane Evagelia of the Utulei CCCAS, after which ASFA president Richard Ott addressed the players and their parents. He stressed the importance of developing the young generation of soccer players who will be entrusted with the task of putting American Samoa on the same level as the current established soccer nations in the Pacific region.

He also emphasized the fact that the young players must first and foremost have fun playing the game.

And indeed, not only did the young players have fun but the parents and the local soccer enthusiasts who turned up to witness the league’s opening day had fun cheering on their children.

At the end of the day, many were hoarse from shouting instructions and encouragement, but mostly from laughing at the youngsters’ antics on the field.

“I’m glad I came today,” said one father. “It’s great to see these young kids enjoying themselves on the field playing the game they love. My kids have been pestering me all week to buy them soccer boots and it was worth it just to see them having so much fun. And I would rather have them spend their summer holidays playing soccer than leaving them open to mischief.”

According to the Naomi, the league continues today at 10am and the two oldest categories (15-17 and 18-20) will have their games at Pago Pago Park, while the younger categories will be playing at the Faga’alu Park. – By Andrew Fa’asau (Samoa News)

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