Samoans selected to compete at prestigious American football game
Belford Viali and RJ Aiafi have been selected by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame to compete at the Polynesian Bowl; a high school all-star game featuring the best gridiron players in the world.
The Polynesian Football Hall of Fame were in Samoa this week to make their selections, as well as set up an annual camp which they said will make Apia a development hub for the sport in the Pacific.
Samoa College student Aiafi, who is an offensive lineman from Vaitele-uta and Alafua, said it’s a great opportunity to push for a college football scholarship at a university in the United States.
He knows the importance of both sports and education in both attaining that scholarship and beyond.
“Once we finish uni, if we get injured, at least we have something to go to afterwards.”
Aiafi said he has been playing the sport for about a year now.
“I’ve watched heaps of games, so I already know the basics.
“I’ve played rugby for life, it was my main game but this is a good opportunity, the money is big.”
He said he wants to do well in the sport so he can provide for his family.
Aiafi said he will have to train hard over the next couple of years before playing in the Polynesian Bowl in 2021.
“So by the time I go there I’ll have enough fitness in order to compete with the other kids who are all-stars from around the world.”
Minister of Communications, Information and Technology Afamasaga Rico Tupai thanked the Hall of Fame for making opportunities available to the youth of Samoa.
“We are very thankful, we feel privileged to be part of this,” he said.
Afamasaga, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi and Minister of Sports, Education and Culture Loau Keneti Sio met with Board Members from the Hall of Fame yesterday to discuss their plans for the sport in Samoa.
“You have the Government’s blessing, and you have the political backing behind you to move this forward,” Afamasaga said.
“Opportunities for universities, and opportunities to play for multi-million dollar contracts, we welcome that.”
He also thanked Samoa Gridiron Coach Callum Jones for the work he is doing as well, and said Viali and Aiafi wouldn’t have been identified without them.
Jones, who is also taking a group of nine student-athletes to the U.S. tomorrow to attend five college football camps in the hope of earning a scholarship, said the Polynesian Bowl is an amazing opportunity for Viali and Aiafi.
He said the Hall of Fame’s presence in Samoa should open the door to opportunities for funding and promotion of the youth in the sport here.
“They’ve got plans, we’ve got plans, we’ve just gotta discuss and align.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity to accelerate the growth of what we’ve been doing.”
Jones said having the backing of Government will be helpful as well.
“To smooth the areas to give more people the opportunity to experience the game and play.”
He said Samoa Gridiron hope to start programmes in more schools.
“Initially just teaching the basic fundamentals of the game.
“From there creating a competition, then from there looking to select elite to train harder, and from there opportunities for scholarships.”