The American Samoa men’s youth national team is off to Tonga to compete in the OFC U16 Championship qualifiers from July 14-20, 2018.
“We wish you the best of luck, and hope you give everything you have out on the field when you play,” said FFAS President, Sen. Faiivae Iuli Alex Godinet upon seeing them off at the Pago Pago International Airport on Monday, July 9, 2018.
“The association has given you the training and equipment you need for this tournament, now we want your talent, and your best efforts out there. Make all of us proud. I just came from our session at the Fono, and they, the senators and elder statesmen of our government and culture, all send their best wishes to you as well.”
The team that finishes the four-team qualifiers at the top will qualify for the second stage set for September in the Solomon Islands, and the territory’s team will be going up against the usual suspects — Cook Islands, Samoa and hosts Tonga.
“We have a mixture of experienced and very inexperienced players on this team,” said head coach Rupeni Luvu. “Seven of our players on this squad were part of the recent U19 team that competed in the Cook Islands. They will be the ones we will rely heavily on during this tournament.’
Gabriel Taumua, captain of the U19 squad, leads the group of experienced players – Walter Pati, Milo Tiatia, Peni Collins, Kauvaha Tua and twin brothers Mark and Matthew Taga’i. Two players based out of Arizona, USA are also part of the team — Peter Lauvao and James Settle.
“We have two players with some experience at competing in tournaments from the U.S., but the rest of the players are new to this,” Luvu pointed out. “It is their first tournament ever so there will be a lot of nerves.”
American Samoa will take on the hosts, Tonga, in the tournament’s first game on July 14 at two p.m. (July 13, 2 p.m., A.S. date and time).
Samoa is their second opponent on July 17 (July 16, A.S. date) while the Cook Islands is the last match on July 20 (July 19, A.S. date). Both games will be held at 11 a.m. (same time in A.S.).
Traveling with the team are the assistant coach Sione Mau, physio Florence Wasko, head of delegation Silasila Samuelu, team manager Tavita Taumua and Media Officer Brian Vitolio.
“The boys are in good spirits, we arrived safely in Fiji and also made it to Tonga without incident,” Samuelu said. “We will have the team contact their parents when we arrive in Tonga, but everyone is well.”
Faiivae, FFAS Treasurer Amio Mavaega-Luvu and the management team met with the parents last Friday and briefed them on all information about the trip. The team’s church service was held at the Leone Holy Cross Parish, led by Father Kelemeta Pua’auli.
AMERICAN SAMOA U16 SQUAD