American Samoa Win Ignites a World Cup Dream
APIA, Samoa — American Samoa had played 30 men’s soccer matches since starting international play in 1994. It had lost all 30, by a combined score of 229-12, and was tied for last in the FIFA world rankings.
On Tuesday, the tiny, unincorporated island territory in the South Pacific finally broke through, defeating Tonga, 2-1, in a prequalifying match for the 2014 World Cup.
“I don’t just want to win one match,” American Samoa’s coach, Thomas Rongen, shouted to his players as they celebrated on the field. He told them he wanted to go on to finish atop their four-team prequalifying group, a previously outlandish notion for a team that once lost, 31-0, to Australia. A First in Cup Qualifying for a Player and a Team
APIA, Samoa — Jonny Saelua did not always envision herself as an international soccer player. What she really wanted to do was join a dance company and “travel the world just performing.”
“Anything modern, jazz, maybe a little bit of ballet,” said Saelua, a center back for American Samoa’s men’s team and a performing arts major at the University of Hawaii. But for now, Saelua is doing her dancing in cleats. On Tuesday, the 23-year-old Saelua played a key role in American Samoa’s 2-1 victory against Tonga in a 2014 World Cup qualifier.
It was American Samoa’s first victory in international soccer, ending a 30-game losing streak in which it had been outscored by 229-12. And Saelua apparently became the first transgender player to compete on a World Cup stage.
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