ASRU chairman responds to negative comments about Samoa-born Talavalu players
The Chairman of the American Samoa Rugby Union, Togiola T. A Tulafono was not in the mood yesterday when he was asked for a reply to some ‘rude and racist’ comments from some local residents, for including Samoa-born players in the team that represented American Samoa at the 2013 Oceania tournament hosted by Fiji last week.
When asked about this issue, Togiola laughed and said, “those kind of comments are jealous comments from narrow minded people who cannot do any positive thing for the country.”
Before he gave his answer to this issue, he first pointed out to Samoa News the Rules and Regulations of the International Rugby Board (IRB) about players and their membership.
“There is no law by the IRB to stop a player from another country to play for the country where he is staying, as long as that player meets all the requirements by the IRB and is confirmed by the local Union, that player is eligible to play,” said Togiola.
One of the requirements is he/she must have lived in that country for at least 3 years; and the union then provides confirmation to the IRB before the tournament to clear the name of the player.
“For Example, Jerome Kaino was born in American Samoa but he is playing rugby for New Zealand and that’s not a problem, as long as Kaino and the New Zealand Rugby Union meet all the requirements needed by the IRB for Kaino, he can play for the country in which he is staying.”
Togiola pointed out that even the USA rugby team had players from Great Britain that started up the team and it continues up until now.
“As I said, the IRB law is clear and we didn’t try to hide anything so that players born in Samoa could be a part of our team. We gave all the documents to the IRB and to the Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions (FORU) for confirmation,” Togiola stated.
Samoa News received numerous telephone calls this week from some local residents, asking why the ASRU included players born in Samoa in the country’s national sevens team, when there were a lot of talented local players who could have been on the team.
Not only did they question the way the ASRU selected its team that competed in Fiji last week, they also wanted to know why the position of Head Coach for the team wasn’t advertised so local residents who have the potential to coach the team could have applied, instead of ASRU making its own selection.
According to Togiola, the ASRU didn’t pick any players from Samoa to be part of the Talavalu team, but rather they were picked from local rugby clubs that are registered under the ASRU.
“Most of the rugby players that play rugby in American Samoa are players who have resided here for more than a decade, and all of them are registered members of their local rugby clubs and ASRU, so why question their chance to represent American Samoa in rugby when they do something good for the country?” Togiola asked.
A lot of talented American Samoa-born rugby players received the green light from the ASRU to be part of the training list, and some of them “were invited by the ASRU” to be part of the training squad, according to the ASRU Chairman, but at the end, only fourteen from over hundreds of rugby players turned up at the field for training.
“Some American Samoans born were pulled back by their parents because they didn’t like the Coach, while others withdrew themselves from training because they didn't want to train but only wanted to be included in the team’s list and we can’t do that,” Togiola said. He called these kind of players, “players who are not honest but they only want praise from other people.”
He also pointed out that “these players didn’t play for the name of Samoa, they played for the good name of American Samoa, the country that they consider as their home county.”
Togiola noted: “We’re lucky we had twelve players to make up the team, otherwise we would not have been able to send a team to compete in Fiji last week.”
One thing the ASRU chairman wanted to know, was why these people waited with their negative comments about the players until now, while the team has been competing in the Oceania tournament for over three years now.
“They didn’t question these players when they were picked to be part of the team that competed at the 2011 Oceania tournament hosted by Samoa, or even last year’s tournament in Australia where we claimed 6th place, but why now—when the team made history and has qualified to compete in Hong Kong sevens next year?” the Chairman of the ASRU asked.
“All I can say is that these kind of comments are from people that have bad feelings and negative thoughts about our brothers from Samoa, and whatever these narrow minded people think about the team, the ASRU will still stand together with our good residents to honor the whole team for their hard work,” he concluded.
Samoa News should point out that some local residents have stood up and posted positive comments on social media networks to cheer on the whole team and the coaching staff for the job well done.
One comment said, “people who don’t play any sports at all do not know how it feels to be a winner and to represent our island in such a sport that we have only begun to put one foot in,” while another says, “I hate to say this, but this is the nature of our people— always trying to tear someone down when they see success.”
Yet another comment praises the outstanding performance of the Talavalu team in Fiji, including the fact they stood up together as a team from American Samoa.
“The players, regardless of their nationality, are members of our Talavalu Rugby team …period. They are proud players of Talavalu and that’s all that matters. Samoa is one pillow, one sheet,one people,” said one local resident.
Listed below is the team that worked hard to put American Samoa’s name on the rugby world map.
David Laban (captain); Nard Umayam Jr; Pentateuch Soosoo Vaki; Iulai Pouvalu; Feite Okesene; Ross Tele’a Poyer; Joseph Ray Poyer; Aiotaota Vailolo; Taeao Paaga; Iakopo Atonio; Maugalei Veavea ma Alesanalesili Kaisala Suiaunoa.
Head Coach: Leota Setefano Fata; Asst. Coach/Manager- Tommy Elisara; Physio- Wayne Wilson.
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