American Samoa broke new ground for women’s football in their small island nation when they made their debut in the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship last Friday, and captain Elcy Naolavoa has been at the helm for their historic journey.
“I’m proud of myself for being a part of this team and it’s so amazing that I’m the captain,” she said.
“This is my first ever being the captain of a team. It is a big opportunity for me being here.”
Although Naolavoa has enjoyed every minute of the experience, she’s learned that wearing the armband comes with a lot of responsibility and takes a lot of strength.
“It was my first time ever being a captain and I didn’t know how to do it,” she said.
“It can be hard always trying to bring the girls together, trying to be the first one there, always being on time and leading by example.
“I didn’t know how hard it would be to be a captain but it’s been amazing.”
Taking on more established teams has also been a challenge for Naolavoa and her team on their debut, but the captain and her teammates are looking forward to using the experience to contribute to the development of women’s football when they return home.
“The other teams have been training a lot. Even when they were little they were training a lot but our team only just started,” she said.
“For ten years we didn’t have a team and this is our first time in this competition and it’s amazing for us, it’s a big opportunity for us for our team to be a part of this.
“We’re so happy to meet the players in the other teams and see how they play so that we can learn new things and improve our game.”
While the rest of her teammates are looking forward to showcasing their development on the field when they get home, Naolavoa’s big dream is to ensure other girls from American Samoa are given the same opportunity as her.
“I want to be coach. I want to be a football coach and I want to teach the other girls how to play football and reach competitions like this,” she said.
Naolavoa’s future plans are on hold for now, however, as she gears up and prepares her side for their final Group B match against Fiji tomorrow.
“We’ve lost two games but they were hard games and I think my team is doing well,” she said.
“I know that in our last game, we can do it. We’re going to suck it in and do it.”
American Samoa will play Fiji in the final match of Group B at J.S. Blatter Football Complex in Apia, Samoa, tomorrow at 5pm (WST).