***I DON’T HAVE FIFA’S PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT TO USE, TALK, THINK OR EVEN YELL AT RANDOS FROM MY BALCONY ABOUT ANY NAMES, COUNTRIES OR EVENTS MENTIONED IN MY FIFA WORLD CUP QATAR 2022 COVERAGE, SO FOR COPYRIGHT REASONS FROM HERE ON IN, THE EVENT WILL BE REFERRED TO AS QLAMQTAR 2022.***
The Qlamqtar 2022 World Cup is only about 3 moons away (depending on your own set of lunar circumstances) and the first ever World Cup held in the Arab world promises to be a real doozy. World Cup history is a tale resplendent with stories of triumph against the odds, childhood dreams coming true and unsung heroes becoming legends. As well as dumb idiot losers, wanker fuck ups and teams that are just total bullshit.
But how shall ye learn about these legends, losers and teams that are just total bullshit? Well look no further my wayward friend as I profile all 211 FIFA nations eligible for World Cup qualification. Today, I take a look at American Samoa, which is yet to qualify for a World Cup.
Ranked #1 in FIFA’s World Teams You’d Cut Off Your Penis to Play For Rankings
Nickname: The Boys from the Territory
FIFA Ranking: 188 (June 2022)
FIFA World Cup 2022 qualification result: Withdrew from Oceania World Cup qualification tournament
This is the highest stage. This is where you should go, ‘wow.’ I would cut off my penis to play a World Cup qualifying game. Guys, I’ve never played one. I dreamt about it when I was two years old, when I was playing in the streets in Amsterdam, because that’s all we did, was play soccer. International football is the best. And you guys have an opportunity to step on the field and represent your country in a FIFA event. The biggest, BIGGEST sporting event in the world, and you guys are part of this. Wow. That’s pretty cool.– Thomas Rongen, coach of American Samoa before their first ever win, vs Tonga in World Cup 2014 qualifying, November 2011
While you can’t deny that it’d be cool to play for the Brazilian national team, or like for Italy, Spain, or the bigger African nations like Ghana or Nigeria or even South Korea or something, there’s one team that sits atop the world rankings for teams you’d chop your dick off to play for. One team that epitomizes why it is that international soccer kicks fucking ass. A team that demonstrates clearer than any other why international soccer is the fucking best (and, in comparison, club football is some straight up bullshit), a team that you’d cut off your dick to play for–American Samoa.
Having won just three competitive matches in its history, and been equal last in the rankings from its inception into FIFA in 1987 until 2011, American Samoa have, until recently, been nothing but a pack of duds. And never was this more evident than in a World Cup qualifier against Australia in 2001, when they were annihilated 31-0 (still a world record). But that record night, that annihilation, that bloody horror show, is where the story of why you’d chop your cock off to play for this team begins.
On that grim night in April 2001 in Coffs Harbour, Australia, Nicky Salapu was the beleaguered goalkeeper who was beaten 31 times. But instead of quitting the national team (or fucking soccer off totally, which he’d totally be forgiven for doing), he plowed on, and in American Samoa’s next scheduled outings, the 2001 Pacific Games, he took to the field as usual, resuming his usual post in American Samoa’s goal. Despite cracking on, America Samoa would ultimately lose all five of its matches at the event, finishing with a -26 goal difference and failing to score even a single goal.
Things couldn’t get any bleaker the Boys from the Territory, and for Salapu himself, the scars of all the years of struggles (and in particular the 31-0 thing) cut deepest. He retired from the national team, moved to Seattle and started a new life. But even in the Pacific north west, he couldn’t escape his demons.
Years later and despite being 5000 miles away, Salapu would still get recognised in Seattle, USA (where he now lived) and copped ‘you’re the guy who had 31 goals scored against you’ on a regular basis, with even his kids being the subject of ridicule in the playground. He hung up his boots for the national side, having never won a single match.
But then 2011 came, and the American Samoan football federation decided enough was enough. They reached out to big brother, the US Soccer Federation, for some help. US Soccer put out a call and ended up sending them 1996 MLS coach of the year and former US Under-20 coach Thomas Rongen (who was the only applicant), in an attempt to raise their level, spirits and basically get the American Samoa national team to pull the finger out of their asses.
Immediately overhauling training, player selection and the team’s diet, Rongen also made a surprise phone call.
Nicky Salapu, now ten years removed from the team, was coaxed out of retirement by the new coach. Rongen knew his story and believed in him, with Salapu’s thick skin striking a particular chord with him. Despite being ‘that 31-nil guy’, Rongen sensed that Salapu was bruised but not broken, and had unfinished business. After their chat, and hearing how much it would mean to him to move on from that night in Australia, how he still woke up in cold sweats thinking of it, or how he’d play FIFA, select Samoa, play Australia and unplug the other controller just so he could run up a mammoth score against them, Rongen knew that he had his #1.
Rongen however came with his own demons too. He and his wife had lost their daughter (his stepdaughter) to a car crash in a single vehicle accident on her way to soccer practice. Despite the heartbreak, he maintained a stern exterior and resolute level of professionalism, meanwhile having to adapt to the Samoan island way of life, as well as deal with a level of shittiness and fucking around he had never thought was possible for a national team.
The new coach had a hardline old school approach and took no bullshit. He completely overhauled their training routines, meal plans and even their attitudes. He gave a full international cap to Johnny/Jaiyah Saelua, a fa’afafine (or third gender in Samoan culture) who not only became the first known transgender player in FIFA international history, but most notably became an key part of the national team defence. Rongen also researched and recruited a pair of experienced players of Samoan descent from the USA, who brought with them an added level of skill and professionalism, and after years of heartache and an intensive preparation, he lead them headfirst into the first round of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. In their first match against Tonga, they would make history, and make the news all around the world.
Just before half-time, American Samoa drove forward and on a nothing shot from nowhere that was spilt by Tonga’s goalkeeper, they incredibly took the lead. It sent the entire squad into delirium, shock and brain meltdown. Then, in the second half, Shalom Luani’s exquisite chip doubled the lead. 2-0. A late conceded goal in the 88th minute lead to severe emotional meltdowns for The Boys from the Territory, and now just seconds away from victory, Tonga made a final foray forward in injury time, and as the ball spilled to some Tonga guy on the edge of the box, American Samoan hearts sunk as all that was left for him to do was to slot it into a seemingly empty net. Seemingly empty that is, as who else but Jaiyah Saelua–who had stayed camped on the line after Nicky Salapu had come wondering out–was in the right place at the right time and as the ball rolled towards the American Samoan net, Saelua cleared the ball off the line and fucking away wherever. A few seconds later, the ref blew for full time. THEY HAD DONE IT. A WIN. A WIN. A FUCKING WIN. American Samoa’s first ever FIFA recognized victory–a 2-1 defeat of Tonga.
They had done it, and it triggered an overwhelming outpouring of emotions.
But the job wasn’t done.
In their second group match, American Samoa failed to capitalise on Cook Islands going down to ten men, disappointingly finishing with a 1-1 draw, and in their final group game, against arch rival Samoa, they narrowly failed to progress to the second round after conceding a heartbreaking winner in second half stoppage time. The team were crestfallen after a shattering loss and a wild few weeks of emotions, but once the bitter disappointment wore off, they realised what they had achieved, performed their stirring traditional Siva Tau war dance in the driving rain, and once the dust settled they knew what they’d done: they’d made the world sit up and say, ‘Severing my penis would be okay for me if it meant I could play for America Samoa.’ Now who would’ve thought the world would be saying that only a few weeks before?
American Samoa had become heroes. The monkey was off their backs, they had their first W (they went on to win two more games in World Cup 2018 qualifying, against Tonga again and Cook Islands), and what’s more, Nicky Salapu doesn’t need to fuck about playing FIFA anymore, going Samoa because it doesn’t have American Samoa and then thumping Australia to try make himself feel better. And although he had exorcised his demons, he probably won’t get his wish for a rematch with Australia in an attempt to just keep the score down to even 10-0 granted (it could actually turn out worse than 31-0 too, you know). But summing up American Samoa’s rapid crazyass rise after the Tonga win, he said, “I feel like a champ right now. Finally I’m going to put the past behind me.”
American Samoa wanted to just play, just play the game representing their country, and they did. Then they wanted to just stop getting battered every game. They did that. Next, they wanted to score a goal. That they did. Then, stop losing and not be the worst team in the world. Done. And lastly, they wanted to win a match. And after years of getting walloped game after game, in 2011 they finally did that. Fucking. Legends.
One to watch: Troy Polamalu behind you about to poke whatever you’re holding loose or flatten you
If you’re holding anything in your hands right now, anything at all, look around you, take a good look, because there’s a good chance that one of the NFL’s greatest ever strong safeties and America Samoa’s own Troy Polamalu is lurking in the vicinity, blitzing and about to light you up.
Known for his rampaging blitzes and incredible 2-way ability to stop the run or the pass, if you’re not careful, Polamalu’s going to pounce on you when you least suspect, to poke free whatever you’re holding, bat it down if you’re trying to pass it to someone, or just simply totally flatten you and send you at best to the sidelines, and at worst, to the hospital in a stretcher with a torn ACL or rotator cuff. So look alive, because if you’ve got something he wants, be it the ball, an ice cream, change, or whatever else, he’s gonna get ya.
The Highpoint: Its first ever win, beating Tonga in 2011, no. Fucking. Doubt.
There’s no doubt about this one. American Samoa’s first ever FIFA recognized win, the 2-1 defeat of Tonga in 2014 World Cup qualifying. Nicky Salapu’s first ever win, over 10 years since his last game with the national team and the same amount of time since shipping 31 goals against Australia. Shalom Luani’s Chip to put them two ahead, and the subsequent homicide he suffered while striking it. The Tongan goal to pull it back. The last minute goal mouth scramble at 2-1 where Nicky Salapu came out to intervene and the ball landed at the feet of some Tongan dude, who, with an empty net, directed the ball goalwards, seemingly to equalise and force a draw, but just as Tonga were about to and break American Samoan hearts again, Jaiyah Saelua, having the foresight to cover the goal line for the out-of-position scrambling Salapu, intercepted the goalbound strike, clearing it out of play and saving a certain goal in the process. Seconds later, the referee blew for full-time, confirming American Samoa’s first ever FIFA-recognized win. Fucking epic. Fucking magic. Magical epicness and epic magical magic.
Learn the lingo & speak like a local!
I mean, I guess. But nothing will ever beat that win over Tonga.