Samoa is a rugby mad country. And although it is hard to believe, that might soon change as more and more efforts are being made to promote American football on these shores, with the promise and more money than rugby could ever offer.
The foundation is being built at the traditionally rugby stronghold grounds of St. Joseph’s College.
Now, students of Saint Joseph’s College have their eyes opened and can dream big, having seen American Football first hand.
A gridiron team from the American Football Federation visited the college this week to promote the sport; the team went through a few drills before having a practice scrimmage in front of the students so they could have a small taste of the sport.
The team stopped over in Samoa as they made their way to New Zealand for an international match and made the most of their stay.
President Ethan Lake has a dream and developing football in Samoa is part of it.
“Tupu and I have been in contact the past few years as he and Richard Brown attempt to start up American Football in Western Samoa,” said Lake.
“American football is obviously a big sport in American Samoa; Samoan’s in general have made a big impact in the sport. I am trying to introduce the sport here so it can grow just like rugby has.
“We have had American Football in our country for over 50 years but at as the youth turns 18 right out of high school they are looking for that college opportunity.
“But those who don’t succeed then it’s pretty much done for them; so we are trying to change that.
“The sport is all over the world and it is actually in 72 different countries, not many people realize that.”
Lake is certain that there is plenty of potential in Samoa.
“If you see what the Manu Samoa has done for here for rugby; Samoa has that speed and strength that we lack back in American Samoa due to that Rugby mentality which is quick.
“We have had many Samoan players make it into the N.F.L. and the N.F.L. is known for their big paying positions. The potential is really big and even though we have rugby here I know there are some that would like to take up American Football here.
“It’s a different style with different rules and I think there’s a lot that will actually fill up that gap.
“There are also scholarship opportunities available for some of the young people of Samoa through American Football.
“Richard has done it himself where he sent some local players from here over to colleges in the States; so he has been working on it with some players for a few years. “There’s a lot of youth here that are not doing anything; as big as rugby is here there are still some kids who are not interested.
“So giving them other options will allow the opportunity to see which sport they will excel in.
After many failed attempts at bringing the sport to Samoa, Lake says that it comes down to exposure.
“This is why we took the opportunity to reach out to Tupu and Richard because we are going to make it happen. There have been several attempts to bring up the sport in the past; the biggest hindrance is the lack of equipment; American Football is an expensive sport. In rugby you need your spikes and a good field then you’re good to go; with football the helmet alone costs about T$200. The idea is trying to start an international federation here and if I can help the guys here start one up then we would be able to start playing each other in the future.”
“What I’m trying to explain to my kids is that there is more than just the high school football; there are a lot of leagues.
“We always hear about the N.F.L. paying their players millions of dollars; much more than the rugby players; much more than any other sport in the world.
“Even with other leagues; you may not make millions of dollars there but you can still make decent money compared to office jobs.
“You’ll be getting paid and playing somewhere in Japan, Europe and so on; this sport will help people travel as well.”
According to Mr. Lake, Samoan’s hold so much influence in the world of sports despite having a small population and given the opportunity we can excel in anything. “I want to say thank you to Samoa and everyone that is taking care of us,” Lake said.
“I also want to thank the American Samoa Government who helped us out with funding; I also want to thank some of our other sponsors.
“I believe in the next few years there will have a federation here in Western Samoa and we will be here to help you start off.”
Daniel Fereti from Faleasiu but lives in American Samoa and the teams quarterback agrees that there is so much wasted potential in Samoa. “I think what we’re doing here is really important because I heard that the game is getting here but it’s still in its development form,” he said. “So what we’re trying to do here is to help out because we are all Samoan’s and we help each other; we want to promote the game and help show you guys what it’s like.
“Samoa is really good at rugby; rugby and football are both contact sports and I think the locals here have so much potential to catch up with football. “It’s not a hard sport, and I’m sure many people will enjoy it.
“I spent most of my first eight years here in Western Samoa before moving back to American Samoa, “I played rugby a lot here and when I went back I saw American football and tried it out, now I’m hooked to the sport.”