Fagatogo Blues are ready to rumble
Samoa News Sports is pleased to feature local teams that have been invited to play in the TMO Marist Pago International Seven A Side tournament scheduled for the 13 and 14 of April. This coverage is made possible through the sponsorship of TMO and host club, Marist Pago.
Assistant coach, Onoiva Tafa’ese is issuing a challenge to his team the Fagatogo Blues and all local clubs that are preparing for the TMO Marist Pago Sevens International not to be overawed by the presence of professional players from overseas.
“Fagatogo is not intimidated by the professional players that we’ll meet in this international competition,” he tells this correspondent. “No off-island team can just come to American Samoa and take the championship away from our shores. The Blues are going to rumble, play hardball, and put doubts on the minds of overseas teams as we go all out to keep the Cup in the territory. I challenge all local clubs to prepare well and do everything they can to keep the Cup here.”
Head coach, Sa’ilimalo Neueli believes his team has the skills and knowledge to cause some major upsets at the TMO Marist Pago International Sevens competition. “We have good players in the squad. We have been training for over two months. They are fit and eager to match their talents against international players from New Zealand, Samoa and Fiji.”
The coaches, Neueli and Tafa’ese are confident of the talents they have assembled to represent their village of Fagatogo in the two-day event scheduled for the 13 and 14 of this month.
“We don’t need athletes from Samoa or anywhere else from the Pacific to help this team. Fagatogo Blues have the arsenal to fight the big guns from overseas. We cannot develop our own players if we rely on imported professionals to play for us. We’re against the idea and don’t need any help from outside,” Tafa’ese strongly voices his objection to this controversial issue.
“This tournament is very good for the development of rugby in American Samoa,” adds assistant coach Tafa’ese. “And we would like to thank the Marist club for staging it and for attracting teams from off-island. I firmly believe that we can emulate what Samoa has done in the world of rugby both in the 15 and sevens codes. If Samoa can do it, why can’t we? With dedication, and proper training, American Samoa can share the spotlight with their brothers in Samoa.”
It has been two months since the two coaches have led the Fagatogo Blues in their rugby drills and road workouts. According to the coaches, their players will represent Fagatogo with pride.
“We’ve bonded well these past two months and the camaraderie is strong. Our village has a lot of great players in this sport but many of them are not available for the tournament as they are committed to Fagatogo’s Ise’ula fautasi campaign”, says coach Neueli.
The two coaches and trainer, Keiki Misipeka want to thank the village of Fagatogo for the support shown and prayers offered for the team. “We appreciate everything that our village has done as we prepare to carry the name of Fagatogo to new heights. With God’s help we can do it,” coach Neueli remarks.
Fagatogo’s own son, Keiki Misipeka, a professional rugby and league player is lending his talents and sharing his knowledge with the Fagatogo Blues squad members. He trains the team and spends time advising members of the squad. Misipeka played for the United States rugby league team, The Tomahawks that beat touring Ireland 38-20 in the DonnyBrook Cup annual tournament that was played on St. Patrick’s Day in Philadelphia’s Widener University on March 19.
Misipeka and his younger brother, Kea returned to American Samoa recently after making the USA national league squad. The 31-year old graduate of Samoana High School suffered a hamstring injury and is unable to play for the Fagatogo Blues sevens team for the upcoming international competition.
Misipeka is only the second player from American Samoa to have donned a Manu Samoa jersey. The Fagatogo native was selected for the Manu Samoa international sevens squad in 2005 and spent two years with the high profile team. Setefano Fata was the first player from here to play for the Manu Samoa 15-man team.
“I gained a lot of experience from being with the Manu Samoa squad,” Misipeka says.
In 2007, Misipeka left the territory to live in the States but has returned to the islands with wife Tufi and their young children to settle. “We have a nice home at Coconut Points where you can relax in our beach fale. We also have kayaks and snorkeling equipment for anyone who wants to enjoy the beach,” he adds.
“I’m recuperating from my injury and is awaiting a recall to the squad for planned test matches against Tonga and Japan that will be held in Hawaii in June,” Misipeka comments.
Misipeka says his goal is to make the Tomahawks team for the Rugby League World Cup tournament that will be held in England in 2013. He wants the US National Rugby League to set up a pool of players in American Samoa. “This will serve as a pathway for local players to enter the NRL. We have potential here, as not all High School football athletes will get a chance to play in the NFL. The NRL is another career avenue for our local players to pursue,” he explains.
He refers to his high school friends, Mose Timoteo and Nu’u Punimata as prime examples of local products that have made their names in the USA Eagles international sevens team.
Meanwhile the double international (rugby and league player) adds his opinion on the subject of whether or not guest players should have been invited to play for club teams.
“I read with interest the comments made for and against this controversy. I speak from my own experience. I share the opinions of those that want to include professional players in their teams. In allowing them to play alongside club players, they will not only share their knowledge and experience but will serve as a benchmark for us to measure the level of our rugby skills and to test how high our rugby IQs are.
“The guest players’ contributions will have been enormous and beneficial to the development of our local players and the sport here. Local coaches and players can do so much but they need to experience first hand the way professional players prepare, train, and play.”
Another issue Misipeka raises is whether the American Samoa Rugby Union has plans to pay insurance for the local players if they get hurt during the tournament.
“I say this because overseas players are trained professionally using the state of the art training centers. Their physical forms are more superior and stronger than our local athletes. There will be brutal physical contact between them and I ask who will foot the bill should a local player suffer a life threatening injury?”
Misipeka wishes his village team success in the international sevens tournament.