National Men's Soccer Team continues to rack up ‘firsts' for the history books

(L-R) American Samoa National Men's Soccer Coach,Thomas Rongen, Johnny "Jaiyah" Saelua, and Gail Megaloudis Rongen in Apia, Samoa during the first of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier tournaments. [photo: courtesy of Facebook/ Gail Megaloudis Rongen]

American Samoa has made world news, with their dream win against Tonga 2-1, ending a drought on the territory's men's soccer matches since entering international play in 1994 - they lost all 30 games played, by a combined score of 229-12, and were tied for last in the FIFA world rankings. And, the ‘firsts' just keep coming for American Samoa's men's national soccer team.

A first: Their historic win has been carried by the Associated Press, CNN and also picked up by the New York Times, as well as a host of other international news agencies.

A first: After the Nov. 22 Tonga game, the team went on against Cook Islands for another historic result - American Samoa's first draw in a FIFA World Cup qualifier.

A first: The Cook Islands draw got them to four points and put them into a position for Saturday, Nov. 26.- the battle between the two Samoas to determine the winner of OFC's Stage 1 qualifying tournament for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

A first: According to the New York Times article in its Nov. 23 issue, "The American Samoa defense was bolstered by Johnny Saelua, who is believed to be the first transgender athlete to compete in a World Cup qualifying match. Saelua is part of the fa'afafine, biological males who identify as a third sex that is widely accepted in Polynesian culture.

"The team accept me and we have that mutual respect," Saelua said. "Which is great. It's all part of the culture."

The coach of American Samoa's team, Thomas Rongen is quoted in the NY Times article as saying: "I've really got a female starting at center back. Can you imagine that in England or Spain?" Rongen is a native of the Netherlands, who earlier this year took over coaching in American Samoa.

The winner of the Samoa vs American Samoa game qualifies for the second stage set for June 2012 in Fiji against the seven other teams of Oceania Football Confederation - New Zealand, New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Tahiti and Papua New Guinea.

In the final game, all Samoa has to do is close out with at least a tie to go through to the second stage, whereas American Samoa needs to win in order to advance.

American Samoa tied with Cook Islands 1-1 and Samoa finished with the same result against Tonga. With four points each and a 1-1 tie in the goals differential tiebreaker, Samoa edges the territory in goals scored, 3-2, to sit atop the standings.

American Samoa's men's soccer national team has become an overnight sensation following its 2-1 win against Tonga with media request pouring in from around the world.

Already the highlight of the American Samoa-Tonga game by OFC Television on YouTube has more than 80,000 hits, a record for any OFC-produced highlight reel on YouTube.

On the FFAS Facebook page congratulatory messages continue to pour in from around the world as well as well wishes for the rest of the tournament.

American Samoa's game against Samoa will kickoff at 5:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m. in American Samoa) at Toleafoa JS Blatter Stadium on Nov. 26.

Log on to www.ffas.as to read live play-by-play updates that are being provided by OFC Media starting at kickoff time.

(Sources: Football Federation of American Samoa, Oceania Football , The New York Times article, "For American Samoa, a Win Ignites a World Cup Dream," by James Montague, published Nov. 23, 2011)


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