AYFS EAST SIDE FALCONS TEAM — FIELDS TWO GIRLS ON FOOTBALL SQUAD
Step aside guys: The girls are taking over. This year in the American Youth Football of Samoa (AYFS) league, the East Side Falcons have something that other teams don’t have. That is, two girls on the squad.
Thirteen-year-old cousins Honorina Tafua and Jade Pan have taken the field this year with the goal of proving that girls aren’t just good for cheerleading.
Instead of glitter on their face and pompoms in their hands, the cousins from Laulii don face masks and pads during the games. This is the first year the girls have tried out and were deemed good enough to play alongside the guys.
Falcons head coach Jimmy Grey said Tafua and Pan are not given any special treatment during practice and exercise sessions, although he and his coaching staff instill in the guys that they still need to ‘respect’ their female teammates.
“Having these two girls on our squad has broken down that barrier which separates the girls and boys on the playing field, especially in football,” Grey said, adding that while equal treatment is imposed on the field during training and games, the boys are told to treat the girls with respect, like letting them be the first in line during water breaks.
Grey said he hopes more girls join their team, as well as other teams in the AYFS league. “These girls have the motivation and drive to play,” he said. “We are going to encourage them to play because this is what they want to do.”
Tafua is an 8th grader at Aua Elementary School and plays guard and defensive tackle. She is a force to be reckoned with, standing at 5’5 and weighing over 200lbs.
She says her goal is to become the first female player in the National Football League (NFL). When asked why she decided to play football, Tafua explained, “I wanted to do something so I can lose weight and be a role model to other girls, to show them that they can play football just like the boys.”
She will be entering as a freshman at Faga’itua High School next year where she plans to tryout for the Vikings football squad.
Her cousin and teammate Jade Pan is just the opposite — physique wise.
Pan stands a lanky 5’4” and weighs around 110 lbs. But don’t let her physical appearance fool you. The girl can run. Parents and coaches from other AYFS teams continue to talk about her speed on the field.
Pan is an 8th grader at Laulii Elementary School and plans to do the same thing as her cousin Tafua. That is, to try out for the Vikings football squad next year when she enters Faga’itua High School as a freshman.
For the Falcons, Pan plays different positions from wide receiver and free safety to strong safety and cornerback. Basically, she ends up where she is needed.
Pan said she tried out for the Falcons squad because she wanted to be selected to play for the All-Star Team set to travel off island later this year. She said football is a way for her to let out all the emotions she has stored inside.
When asked about her future plans, Pan said, “there are too many opportunities out there and I’m not sure what I want to do,” adding that joining the military is never out of the question for her.
The Falcons team initially had four girls on their squad but two of the girls quit, leaving Tafua and Pan as the last ones standing.
The AYFS is in its fifth year and includes participation from elementary-aged kids from all over the territory.
Honorina is the daughter of George and Punipuao Posala Tafua of Atu’u and Laulii, and Jade is the daughter of Gene and Janice Pan of Lauli’i.
Go get ‘em girls!