Through Measles and COVID-19: Samoan football marches forward

The whole world is suffering from the worst pandemic of this century. Schools are closed, sporting activities were postponed and the hospitals are not dealing with the huge number of people infected by the COVID-19. However things are a little bit worse in some countries that have been facing another outbreak before the current pandemic.

Some Oceanian countries were very affected by the measles outbreak a few months ago and it reflected in the football.

Pago Youth withdrew from 2020 Oceania Champions League due to measles
2019 Football activities postponed in Samoa due to measles
2019 Samoan League trophy awarded to Lupe o le Soaga

Samoa was one of the most affected countries by the measles. The national league was called off and Lupe o le Soaga was considered the league champion to book a berth in the Preliminary Round of 2020 OFC Champions League.

Lupe returned to the continental tournament after missing the 2019 edition and they had a brilliant campaign. They managed to qualify to the group stage and made history for their country by beating current Fijian champions Ba in the Group D.

Lupe o le Soaga had a surprising performance in the 2020 OFC Champions League. Source: OFC Media

Many people considered this historical win as an outlier but it reflects the new reality of the local football. The local federation has been working hard to improve its management and the consequences are starting to be seen in the pitch.

Samoa is usually placed alongside with American Samoa, Cook Islands and Tonga because they are the bottom-four ranked nations in Oceania. Despite being poorly ranked in FIFA Rankings, it is clear that they are improving faster than these three other nations in order to reduce the gap between better-placed nations and Samoa.

The youth players must be highlighted as well. Samoan teenagers had a decent performance in the 2018 OFC U-16 Championship as they were a hard challenge for stronger nations like Fiji and New Caledonia while the U-23 squad thrashed American Samoa in the Olympic Qualifiers last year.

The senior squads also show improvement. While the men’s team beat Tonga and scored once against New Zealand in the last Pacific Games, the female squad made Samoa proud of them by finishing the 2019 Pacific Games in the second position after losing to Papua New Guinea in the final.

Samoan women performed really well in the Pacific Games. Source: FFS Media

Another good point is the increasing number of Samoan players in New Zealand. Playing in the best nation in OFC region surely brings lots of experience to them as they have the opportunity to get more exposure in a high level of football. Some players that must be pointed are: George Konusi, Andrew Mobberley and Jarvis Filimalae that are supposed to play the winter football season in New Zealand.

Some other good players like Andrew Setefano, Lapalapa Toni and Vito Laloata have already played in New Zealand as well. Laloata is currently playing for Papua New Guinean powerhouse Hekari United while Toni has recently returned to Samoa. Another player that must be highlighted is Willie Sauiluma that is currently playing in Australia.

Vito Laloata: I want to develop my talent
George Konusi ready for one more season at Manukau United
Jarvis Filimalae: Samoan rising star

Sauiluma is developing his talent in Australia. Source: Shepp News

It is clear that Samoa still has a long way to go but the first steps are made. It would not be a surprise if Samoa National Team becomes more competitive in a few years. The Oceanian football fans would be glad!

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