Young Samoan chasing N.F.L. dream in Hawaii
Year 13 student Belford Viali left for Hawaii on Friday - a trip that will make him the first Samoan to compete in the prestigious Polynesian Bowl and, he hopes, open doors to his dream of playing in the N.F.L.
The 18-year-old from Tufuiopa, who attends St. Joseph's College, was invited to participate in the game at Aloha Stadium along with over 90 of the best high school American football players in the United States.
The Polynesian Bowl begins on January 18th but Viali hopes the week-long experience will help him on his path to becoming a player in the National Football League (N.F.L.), the top-tier of America's most popular sporting code.
“[I want] to open doors for future kids like me in Samoa to participate in the game," he said.
The amount of elite talent on show in the Bowl means plenty of scouts from U.S. college football programmes will also be heading to Hawai'i as well, both to see the game and practice week leading up to it.
“I want to go to school there [and] get a scholarship," Viali said.
“Gridiron is a good game to make a better life for my family and those in Samoa."
A year 13 student this year, Viali is the first Samoan-based player to be offered a spot in the Polynesian Bowl by its organisers: the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame.
The organisation's Chairman and co-founder, Seiuli Jesse Sapolu, led an open clinic in June 2019, from which Viali was selected for the Bowl.
“He’s got a lot of experience from the past four years now since the gridiron team started here in Samoa," said his mother Frances, who is accompanying her son on his trip to Hawaii.
“He was one of the originals that started with Coach Tupu [Agatupu Lefao] who passed away.
“I’m very proud of him, I just hope that God will give him courage to pursue it further."
Belford Viali said his strengths as a player are his speed and fitness, as well as his courage on the field.
He says he enjoys school and would welcome the education side of being a student-athlete on a college scholarship.
Viali hopes to complete a commerce degree and is particularly interested in accounting and economics.
For the last few months he has been training with Leapai Richard Brown to prepare for the event.
The Viali family are grateful to Leapai for his time, and JP's Fitness who allowed them free use of the gym.
They also thank Eveni for giving them elei shirts for Belford to wear at the Bowl's formal events.
The Polynesian Bowl is held annually during the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Week.
2017 Bowl All-Star players Tua Tagovailoa and AJ Epenesa, who are now college football stars, were named as honourary team captains for the game this week.