Contributed by: Ash Nugent
The International Cup is now little more than two months away. For the island nation of Samoa, home to around 180,000 people, sending a squad to the tournament is no small feat. The minimum wage is as little as a dollar an hour and costs to send a team are between fifty and eighty thousand dollars. Teams able to secure accommodation or airfares sponsorship find funding easier but still face costs of at least thirty thousand dollars. Yet at the same time, the tournament offers Australian football priceless exposure and a great opportunity for growth in many of these countries. For the past two years, AFL Samoa and the organisation's National Game Development Manager, Michael Roberts have been busy securing partnerships for their team, to help make Samoa's International Cup goal a reality.
Samoa is one of nine countries to have also been represented at the two previous International Cups. Both times they were supported by the Western Bulldogs and at the inaugural tournament the Samoan's kit mirrored that of the AFL club. Unfortunately AFL Samoa has had to look elsewhere for support this year. Luckily the North Melbourne football club, previously uninvolved with an International Cup side, has offered to help out, and the Samoan Kangaroos, as they will this time be called, will wear blue and white. Coincidentally, one of the AFL Kangaroos’ star forwards, Aaron Edwards is Samoan-born and this is something Roberts is keen to build upon. Ideally he would like to have Edwards acting as a figurehead for the sport in Samoa and hopes to have Edwards visit his country of birth by year’s end.
Apart from the North Melbourne affiliation, AFL Samoa has secured the support of several suburban and country football clubs.
Noble Park, Mulgrave and St. John’s Old Collegians will all host the Samoan team at training and dinner. Warrnambool football club will assist Samoa for the country-leg of the tournament and St Margaret’s school in Berwick, Victoria is fundraising for the team, the school's own initiative. As a thank you the Samoan team (not including those players with other International Cup-related commitments) will hold a clinic at the school on 26 August.
AFL Samoa has submitted a request for monetary assistance for the team to the Samoan Government, and they are awaiting approval. They are also awaiting sign-off on a few sponsorship deals. Like all amateur sports clubs, every dollar counts and they welcome any additional support (Roberts can be contacted through WFN).
Trials for the Samoan team have begun as of last week, and AFL Samoa is currently investigating the eligibility of Samoan footballers living in Australia (which dramatically reduces costs for the team). 2005 coach Milani Feaunati, the only female coach at the tournament has been reappointed for the 2008 event and is working with Roberts to select the best possible squad. This could include past representatives and current rugby players Rambo Tavana and Mikaele Pessamino. Pessamino was named in the 2005 International Cup’s World Squad, but is currently trialing with overseas clubs and is in doubt for the tournament.
Other than simply getting the side to Victoria, Roberts is hopeful that Samoa can improve on their impressive finish in 2005 - fifth place.
World Footy News