Lt. Gov. Faoa Sunia joined OFC President Reynald Temarii Thanksgiving Day at the Equator Restaurant to open the OFC Executive Committee Meeting — the first meeting of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) executive committee to be held in American Samoa— that brought together eight of the 11 countries that comprise the OFC.
During a Samoa News interview, Temarii said that among the topics of discussion Thursday was $300,000 to rebuild the Football Federation of American Samoa headquarters, office facilities and the soccer field at Pago Park Soccer Stadium at Gagamoe in Pago Pago that were destroyed by the Sept. 29 tsunami.
He said the committee was going to “officialize” the fund and construction is expected to start by the end of the year.
Also among the topics of discussion in the meeting was how to use $8 million NZD provided by a partnership of several football associations, among them Europe, Germany, France and other countries — that will go toward equipment purchase and development of soccer in schools.
“For me to be here with our colleagues is a tribute to the volunteers...without them we wouldn’t be able to achieve anything,” said Temarii.
He noted the land where the FFAS headquarters was built was made available by the government and village leaders of Pago Pago.
“I thank the governor for his assistance in helping us build the academy. This is the first time in 45 years, that members of the executive committee sit here in Pago,” Temarii added. The OFC was established in 1964.
A day after the Sept. 29 disaster, FFAS President Iuli Alex Godinet contacted them via e-mail to explain damages that occurred as a result of the tsunami, Temarii said.
Temarii also commended FFAS CEO Tavita Taumua, calling him one of the best CEOs in the countries that comprise the OFC.
In a statement from OFC it says Temarii visited the FFAS facilities with the visiting football federation presidents to see the damage to Pago Park first hand.
“Right after the tsunami, we didn’t think this [OFC] Executive Committee meeting would happen,” said Iuli. “In 45 years, this is the first time the OFC has met here. I’m glad and I’m happy. It’s completely different to have them here to see. We are going to Pago to tour the facilities so they can see everything we need.”
FFAS staff led the group on a tour showing them where the maintenance building and water system had been standing before being swept away and taking them inside the administration block where only twisted metal and broken doors remained.
President Temarii said it was overwhelming to see the devastation.
“This is tragic what happened here. Pago Park took four years in the making but it was destroyed in just minutes.” FFAS staff spent weeks cleaning up the debris ahead of the Executive Committee visit and President Temarii thanked them for their efforts.
“I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to FFAS President Iuli Alex Godinet and his staff who are an example of the power of hope. They have remained positive in the face of this terrible tragedy and for that they are to be commended,” said Temarii. “FIFA and OFC will now work closely with FFAS, the American Samoa Government including the Governor and Lieutenant Governor as well as the local community to rebuild the headquarters so this tiny island nation can once again have a ‘home of football.’”
According to the OFC statement, the dream to build the FFAS headquarters was approved by FIFA in 2003 with construction completed in April 2007. The groundsman was the only one injured from FFAS, but the $900,000 headquarters was left in ruins.
Passports and travel documents for the American Samoa U-20 women’s team were being held at the FFAS offices in preparation for their departure to New Zealand for the OFC U-20 Women’s Championship, but everything inside the building was swept away. OFC subsequently postponed the U-20 championship until January 2010.
Iuli says immediately following the tsunami, OFC Development Officer Glen Turner visited the FFAS headquarters to conduct an assessment. He added that the OFC has met with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and the OFC was able to receive financial assistance from FIFA to aid in the reconstruction of the FFAS office and field.
As for the future of soccer in American Samoa, Iuli says “I believe we need to work with the government and in partnership with the Department of Education, with God’s blessings.”
He says American Samoa soccer is moving ahead with the sport being played in all schools, with equipment provided by OFC which also sends FIFA instructors to the territory to conduct training. He added that the FFAS has a number of qualified referees that will aid in taking local teams to OFC tournaments.
“We know that the story of American Samoa and its management was bad in the past,” said Temarii referring to pre-normalization committee days. “We had the normalization committee and Iuli and his leadership gives us confidence that now American Samoa football is on good hands.”
Temarii departed the island yesterday, on his way to Samoa to launch a new football field. He told the News that there are “some problems” in Samoa and a normalization committee was established there last year.
He then travels to South Africa and Dubai.