Today is the day. The national football team of Samoa will leave the country this afternoon.
They will be off to Papua New Guinea, where the team will participate at the 2016 O.F.C. Nations Cup, starting on the 29th of May with a match against former winner Tahiti.
It is an exciting event for the team, especially for those of them who are new to the squad which is led by head coach Scott Easthope. One of these fresh faces is Marcus Alimonti. Being only 18 years of age, the left-back from Australia is the squad’s youngest member, which is a fact that makes the journey to Papua New Guinea even more special for him.
“It is pretty exciting right now for me, because all of our training has been leading up to this moment, which is around the corner now.
It can be a bit overwhelming sometimes because most of the boys have been a part of the team for a long period of time and some of them are bigger and stronger than me, but I am enjoying it most of the time.”
As Mr Alimonti explained, the attendance at the Nations Cup is especially worthwhile for him.
“That’s the one thing I always wanted to do, representing my country in an international tourney like this.” In fact, the match against the team of Tahiti will be the first time ever for him to slip on Samoa’s jersey.
“I think we are especially well prepared for our first match, and we will do our best in the tournament. A lot of people won’t be expecting us, that’s why I am sure we can surprise them with our performance in Papua New Guinea.”
The preparations for the team’s participation at the tournament have been going on for quite some time now.
The extensive training sessions have come to an end at Return to Paradise Beach Resort, where the squad turned to fine-tuning regarding their shape for the upcoming matches.
“We had training sessions twice a day in Vaitele, on the fields of the Samoa Football Federation and we arrived at this resort on Sunday. Here we finished our crossfit session, which included a lot of cardio training but also lots of muscle building in the gym as well,” Marcus Alimonti explained.
The squad picked by head coach Scott Easthope also includes some troopers who have represented Samoa in many matches, just like John Hall. The 25-year-old defender has been a part of the National Team for two years now.
A time in which he was also able to represent the nation in another international tournament in Tonga, through which the team was able to qualify for this year’s O.F.C. Nations Cup. “I think we have definitely improved since back then and I am sure that the team is well prepared for these matches.
I mean, we are aware of our position as the tournament’s underdogs, but I suppose, sometimes can also be a good thing to fly under the radar,” Hall stated.
He also commented on the abilities the players bring with them for the tournament. “From a technical point of view, one could say that the Samoan players aren’t as good as the overseas based players, but they are very physical and very athletic.
Also, with the excellent work done by our coach Scott Easthope and the technical director Stu [Pyne], the federation here is developing programs to encourage these strengths even in the youngest players, which will definitely be a good thing for the future of football in Samoa.”
According to John Hall, the final trainings at Return to Paradise Beach Resort where a welcome change compared to the football fields in Vaitele: “We have had some great sessions here, especially with the nice white sand and the blue water in the background.
Even though it was still a tough experience and we are almost done with training, I’d say it is never too late for a beach workout in beautiful Samoa”.
The team’s trainer staff made sure that the players profited from these last trainings near the beach, as Assistant Coach Phineas Young explained: “I think the boys are ready.
They’ve been training hard and therefore I think they will represent our country in an appropriate way in Papua New Guinea. Our first opponent Tahiti might be the former champion of the tourney, but we will try and give them a good one”.
Samoa will start the tournament against the team of Tahiti on the 29th of May, followed by the second match on the 1st of June against New Caledonia. The last match of the group phase will kick off on the 5th of June against the cup’s hosting team Papua New Guinea.
Samoa’s team squad for the 2016 OFC Nations Cup:
Faalavelave Matagi, John Terence Hall, Kaipo Tagaloa, Filipo Bureta, Jarrel Sale, Ryan Martin, Andrew Forbes Mobberley, Cameron Martin, Paulo Junior Scanlan, Richmond Desmond Faaiuaso, Jai Ingham, Mike Saofaiga Foai, Lionel Taylor, Keone Kapisi, Luki Gocshe, Marcus Rocco Alimonti, Joseph Ronnie Dan-Tyrell, Henry Pupi, Lapalapa Toni, Silao Malo, Charlie Tapelu, Ted Sikovi, Samuel Malo.
Scott Easthope, Stuart Pyne, Phineas Young, Joseph Kapisi, Janina Aricheta, Justin Rafan, Paletuatoa Toelupe, Siaosi Tagilima.