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FFAS kicks off U-19 tournament

A player on the Tutuila squad competes for the ball against a Swains Island defender during a match of the 2014 FFAS U-19 Tournament on Saturday, January 25, at Pago Park Soccer Stadium. [FFAS MEDIA/Brian Vitolio]

FFAS kicked off its U-19 tournament with the aim of selecting a national team for the upcoming OFC competition slated for later this year.
 
“The international youth competition used to be U-20 run by OFC and in preparation for the FIFA World Cup of this age group,” explained FFAS President Faiivae Iuli Alex Godinet before officially opening the games on January 25. “But it has now been changed to U-19 so that players in this tournament will qualify by age for FIFA’s U-20.
 
“So to prepare for the OFC tournament our technical staff have come up with an FFAS U-19 competition in the format you will be competing in to help them select a national squad.”
 
The make up of the FFAS U-19 tournament is the division of clubs into four zones and named after the islands that make up American Samoa — Tutuila, Aunu’u, Swains and Manu’a.
 
The Aunu’u team consists of Pago Youth, PanSa and Atu’u Broncos clubs while Swains Island is made up from Utulei Youth, Green Bay and Kiwi Soccers. Vaiala Tongan, Ilaoa & To’omata and Vaitogi United are known as Manu’a while Tutuila consists of the Tafuna Jets, Black Roses, Lion Heart and FC SKBC clubs.
 
“You all must understand that under FIFA’s rules and regulations, as an international player you must hold the passport of the country you play for so therefore if you are a U.S. National or U.S. citizen then you are qualified to be selected for our U-19 National Team,” Faiivae explained. “However, we have opened this tournament up to players of other nationalities. You can play in this tournament but you cannot be selected because of the different passport you hold.”
 
New Zealand is the host of the 2015 U-20 FIFA World Cup and thus automatically qualify for the tournament. This means an Oceania representative to next year’s U-20 World Cup will come from 10 other nations — American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Tonga and Vanuatu.
 
“I believe this is a great format for us because it will be hard for all of our clubs to field full squads on their own,” said FFAS CEO Tavita Taumua. “If this system works really well then this could be our format to select future youth national teams.”
 
As for the games, Tutuila drew 3-3 with Swains Island despite the former starting off the game with only eight players while Manu’a manhandled Aunu’u 6-1.
 
Teams will play in one round-robin followed with semi-finals and a final.
 
MANU’A 6, AUNU’U 1
 
It was a game some of the top, talented youth players that have represented American Samoa at past OFC international youth tournaments, producing a great first half before Manu’a took over in the second half.
 
Rafael “Fish” Rocha scored his first, putting Aunu’u ahead for the only time in the match before two goals by speedster Sinisa Tua had Manu’a leading for good.
 
Tua would finish the game with four goals.
 
Manu’a’s former youth international players on their squad are Tua, Sefo Ulugia and Paia Ipiniu (did not play). For Aunu’u they had Frederick Maiava, Johnny Sione, Iotamo Lameta, Heston Lameta, Michael Taumua and Puni Samuelu (did not play).
 
TUTUILA 3, SWAINS ISLAND 3
 
Despite fielding only eight players at the beginning, Tutuila still gave Swains Island a hard time.
 
By halftime Swains was up 2-1 but Tutuila came back to close out the match in a 3-3 draw.
 
Players that have represented American Samoa in youth international competitions for Swains are Kaleopa Siligi, Ne’emia Kaleopa, Lauatea Siatu’u and Palepoi Mauga while for Tutuila they are Reuben Luvu Jr., Paul Collins and Keni Tupuola
 

Sinisa Tua (right) of Team Manu’a dribbles towards the goal against an Aunu’u defender during a match of the 2014 FFAS U-19 Tournament on Saturday, January 25, at Pago Park Soccer Stadium. [FFAS MEDIA/Brian Vitolio]


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