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Lack of gov’t support seen as key to poor local sports development

Young boxing team from American Samoa when they first won the Samoa Teuila Boxing Championship last year.

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — One of the many problems that affects the development of sports in American Samoa is the lack of financial assistance from the government, and the involvement of politics, which stops leaders from doing the right thing, according to the President of the American Samoa Boxing Federation (ASBF), Paepaetele Mapu Jamias during an interview with Samoa News last week, right after a young ASBF boxing team returned home victorious after defending their Teuila Boxing Championship title in Samoa earlier this month.

“Every government in the world has put aside funds to support all sports in their country, except for the American Samoa Government. For example, Great Britain has set aside millions and millions of dollars for boxing alone. Hawai’i has a lot of boxing rings in many different areas. Samoa has invested so much money to build a training facility for weightlifting, and adding more new boxing rings in both Upolu and Savaii as they prepare to host the upcoming Pacific Games next year — for the third time.”

Paepaetele pointed to boxing as one of the sports that continues to bring home medals every time a local team competes in international competitions. As a result, one local boxer is now qualified to represent American Samoa — for the first time ever — in the Youth Olympics in Argentina next month.

Falaniko Tasi will compete in the 64kg division and he will be traveling with coach/trainer, Okesene Malala, the first American Samoa boxing referee to hold a 2-Star Coaching Certificate from the International Boxing Association (AIBA).

Paepaetele told Samoa News that the ASBF’s main focus is to continue to introduce boxing in the territory and recruit more young people to become good boxers and champions in the future. He said the only problem they continue to encounter is the lack of financial support from the government to fund teams traveling around the world to represent American Samoa.

“Every time a boxing team is sent to compete in an international championship in previous years, we always face the problem of lack of financial support from the government to pay for the team’s airfare, accommodations, and many other costs related to the tournament. So, at the end of the day, ASBF officials step up and pay the cost out of our pockets,” Paepaetele said.

“These young boxers are not fighting for their families or the ASBF. They are fighting for American Samoa, and they are also representing the American Samoa flag wherever they go.”

According to Paepaetele, in order to assist all the sports federations in the territory, ASG has to give funds to the American Samoa National Olympic Committee (ASNOC), which oversees all the local sports federations including boxing, and from there, whenever ASBF needs financial assistance, they can go straight to the ASNOC, not ASG.

Samoa News asked Paepaetele whether ASBF ever sought financial assistant from ASG to fund their boxing team trips for previous tournaments.

The ASBF president said they tried many times but failed.

“If our government has vision and is willing to invest money to develop every single sport locally, AS will be one of the top nations in the Pacific in sports competitions,” Paepatele said.

The problem, according to Paepaetele, is that the government is not using local funds wisely, instead, they increase salaries for government employees who don’t deserve it, they use it to fund things that are not necessary or needed, when the need is right there — the need has been there for years and years, but nothing has been done to stop the misuse of  local funds.

“I’m building a new boxing ring with my own money at Maliu Mai, and I’m doing this for the benefit of the young people of AS who want to do something good for their country, especially those who have a vision of becoming good fighters in the future,” said Paepaetele.

“If you go to Hawai’i, Palolo has a boxing gym, Waianae has a boxing gym, Kalakaua has a boxing gym. In Samoa, they have 3 boxing gyms in Upolu and 2 in Savaii, but for us here in AS, we have nothing.”

The boxing gym inside the Veterans Stadium in Tafuna used by the American Samoa Boxing Association (ASBA), which is under the leadership of president Toleafoa Henry Tavake, is not considered a boxing ring to host an international boxing match. According to Paepaetele, it is just a training ring.

“AS really needs a real boxing ring and a good boxing facility to train our athletes to become champions,” Paepaetele said.

He said one of their requests to the AIBA is to set up a Boxing Academy in Samoa instead of taking it to New Zealand or Australia, so local boxers from AS can travel to Samoa and be part of these programs. Not only is it cheap to get there, it will also save them from paying huge costs for training.