It took 17 years and 30 straight defeats -- including a world record 31-0 loss to Australia -- but American Samoa finally got to experience the joy of victory in a FIFA-sanctioned match this week with their 2-1 win over Tonga to start their Oceania World Cup qualifying campaign.
Tied for 204th (last place) in the FIFA world rankings, the U.S. protectorate with a population of 55,000 has been outscored 229-12 in international play since joining FIFA in 1994. The team never scored a goal in World Cup qualifying. So the win over 202nd ranked Tonga gives them an overwhelming combination of firsts.
The game itself served as a reminder as to why these teams are ranked where they are. The first goal of the match, scored by American Samoa's Ramin Ott, was a bouncing, speculative shot from 40 yards out that hit the Tonga keeper right in the hands before deflecting into the net (1:05 into the video). American Samoa's second goal was more impressive, though, as Kaneti Falela put a perfectly placed ball over the charging goalkeeper just before getting run over in the 74th minute (2:00). And once the final whistle blew, some players lifted their arms, others dropped to their knees and still others looked around like they had no idea how to react to such a long awaited and almost mythical result.
After the match, coach Thomas Rongen and goal scorer Ramin Ott summed up the moment (via the AP):
"This is going to be part of soccer history, like the 31-0 (defeat) against Australia was part of history," Rongen said.
"I can't explain it right now," Ott said. "I'm elated. I'm above everything right now."
Former MLS and US U-20 coach Thomas Rongen just took charge of the team in October. According to the Associated Press, Rongen "was sent to American Samoa in October as part of a goodwill exchange program between the U.S. Soccer Federation the Oceania Football Confederation." If all this sounds like the makings of the perfect feel-good sports movie, you're already too late. But a sequel is definitely in order.
And now, with that pesky first win out of the way, American Samoa can focus on making it two in a row.
Video via KCKRS