By Chris Wright
American Samoa were infamously tonked 31-0 by Australia in a World Cup qualifier back in 2001, with Aussie striker Archie Thompson scoring 13 of the goals – an international record that still stands to this day.
The loss saw American Samoa officially become the ‘worst team in the world’ in the FIFA rankings.
Then, almost exactly a decade later in October of 2011, with the team about to embark on another gruelling World Cup qualifying campaign, former D.C. United, Chivas USA and US U-20s national side coach Thomas Rongen showed up on the tiny Pacific island to become American Samoa’s head coach, hell-bent on overseeing an up-turn in fortunes for ‘the worst team in the world’.
The ex-NASL journeyman (who began his pro career in his homeland with the Ajax reserves in the mid-1970s) implented a hard-line approach to whipping American Samoa into shape, quite literally – battling to overcome the odds while attempting to nurture an emotionally scarred goalkeeper, a raft of clinically obese players and Johnny ‘Jayieh’ Saelua, the first ever transgender player to play in a FIFA-sanctioned game.
Just to make matters worse, Rongen’s best player had also recently joined the US military and was 6,000 miles away at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
The film charts Rongen’s struggles as he attempts to coach the ultimate team of underdogs both on and off the field as they once again make an optimistic tilt at getting to the World Cup.
If you’ll excuse the spoiler, American Samoa (204th in the FIFA rankings) did actually go on to register their first ever victory over Tonga (202nd) and, while their World Cup campaign ended in obligatory disappointment, the story of the team’s development looks like it’s made for one hell of documentary…
The documentary, produced by British film-makers Mike Brett and Steve Jamison, is released on 9th May in the UK.
We can’t wait!
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