CCCAS Utulei, led by Rev. Ioane Evagelia, recently hosted the team for a church service in their honor on Sunday, April 10, 2011. The team departs the territory on April 15 for Apia, Samoa and will catch a connecting flight for New Zealand on the following day. They return back to American Samoa April 30.
The selected players came from a list that began with 30 for Oceania’s 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup Mexico qualifiers that will be held at Auckland’s Centre Park in Mangere.
Originally there had been 20 players selected with one alternate. The alternate, Elama Ieremia, stepped in to replace Vaiali’i Alatina after it was discovered that he had a serious injury preventing him from playing.
However, FFAS President Iuli Alex Godinet and CEO and team manager Tavita Taumua decided to reward his commitment to training hard for the past three months by taking him with the squad. His teammates are extremely happy with that decision as they will have an extra fan when the tournament kicks off.
The other teams in the competition are New Zealand, Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. Defending champs Tahiti is not participating in the tournament.
OFC recently held the draw with all seven teams divided into two pools.
American Samoa is pooled together with Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu in Group A while B consists of Solomon Islands, New Zealand and New Caledonia.
“There are a lot of very new players on our team,” explained coach Ruben Luvu, who also doubles as FFAS’ Men’s Development Officer. “New as in new to international competition. However, 19 of them participated in our National League last year, playing against much older players so they have that bit of maturity to help them out during our upcoming competition.”
Luvu did point out that of the 20 players, two are not green in that area as Shalom Luani and Elama Ieremia were part of the U-17 squad that traveled to New Zealand in January.
Both were not part of the squad at the beginning but were called up to complete the numbers after a couple of players were dropped from the list by the U-20 technical team (Luvu, CEO and team manager Tavita Taumua and assistant coach Uinifareti Aliva).
“Our main focus in this short period of time we’ve been training has been trying to get them to stay focused on the game plan we set out,” Luvu said.
For the past month the squad has been playing warm up games against the National Team preparing for the 2011 Pacific Games New Caledonia with very favorable results.
“It is a big challenge for us playing against the likes of other squads U-20 teams but our players have big hearts and have a no fear attitude in them,” Luvu explained. “Now all we can hope is that they can channel all that into producing positive results for us out there.”
The schedule of their games is listed below with local time in parenthesis while the home team is listed first.
THURSDAY, APRIL 21 (April 20, 11:30 a.m.)
SATURDAY, APRIL 23 (April 21, 2:00 p.m.)
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
MONDAY, APRIL 25 (April 24, 2:00 p.m.)
The top two teams from each pool advance to the semi-finals set for April 27 (April 26, local time) and the final on April 29 (April 28, local time).
Most of the team is made up of college students. Only four are currently in high school.
On the team there are two sets of brothers — twins Ryan and Rhine Samuelu and brothers Roy and Shalom Luani.
Of the 14 clubs affiliated with FFAS during the past year, Pago Youth has the highest number of representatives with seven. The next closest is Tafuna Jets with three, followed by FC SKBC and Lion Heart with two each while other clubs having one player each are Utulei Youth, PanSa, Kiwi Soccers, Fagasa Youth and Black Roses.
Below is the list of players and team officials:
Frederick Charles Uhrle
Ismael D’Angelo Herrera
Ruben Luvu (Coach)
Uinifareti Aliva (Assist. Coach)
Tavita Taumua (Team Manager)
Travis ‘Pita’ Sinapati (Physio)