The Mangere Shopping Centre was painted blue last Saturday morning as large numbers of the Samoan Community turned up to show their support for the Manu Samoa ahead of tonight’s test match against the All Blacks.
As part of the 29-day countdown to the Pasifika Challenge, the Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U) held community events around Auckland to raise support.
Events were put together with the help of a committee set up by the Consul General, Faolotoi Reupena Pogi and Mangere Member of Parliament, Aupito Su’a William Sio.
The last leg of the 29 days included the Manu Samoa’s Saturday morning parade through the Mangere township, to meet and greet fans, and a sold-out corporate dinner later in the evening held at the Malaeola Community Centre.
S.R.U board member and the Minister of Communications , Afamasaga Rico Tupai says the most important thing was for the team to see Samoans in New Zealand behind them.
“We’ve been really mindful of Manu Samoa results last year, and we wanted to render the support of the country again,” Afamasaga said, “to make the boys feel at home and encourage them before the game.”
For the S.R.U, he says, it was about uniting Samoans across the globe, something no other team does quite like the Manu.
A sentiment echoed by consul-general Faaolotoi Pogi, who said the people have been behind the Manu Samoa for many years and they need events like this to really show their support.
“It engages the community and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
While it was a great way for the S.R.U to rebuild and regain trust amongst the people it was most importantly heartening for the boys to witness their community come together to back them in droves.
“It was good to see the support,” says Wellington-born hooker Manu Leiataua, currently signed to Bayonne in France.
“To see the families and know that the support’s still strong in Auckland, and in New Zealand as a whole, is great.”
Toulouse flanker Piula Faasalele, also Wellington-born, says the Manu Samoa has always been the people’s team.
“It’s important for us as a team to show that we care and that we need our people’s support.”
Manu Samoa Coach, Namulauulu Alama Ieremia, says the support has been especially humbling for the boys.
“The boys are really blown away by the reception we’ve had.”
The team, according to Coach Namulauulu is not just grateful for the support but is able to take much needed energy from it into their preparation for, and in the match against the All Blacks.
A monetary presentation of NZ$50,000 by the Go Manu Organizing committee on behalf of the Samoan Community in NZ was announced on Saturday night at the Corporate Dinner by Consular General Faolotoi.
NZ$10,000 was presented to the Manu Samoa Team Coach to assist the boys with their preparation this week and NZ$40,000 will be presented to Samoa Rugby Union to assist with the rest of the campaign against Wales, Fiji and Tonga.
Now all is left for the 29 Days Campaign is for the community to show up on game day with their Go Manu T-shirts and cheer the Manu boys on at Eden Park.