When the Australian and American Samoan football clubs met in a qualifying match for the FIFA World Cup in 2001, Australia broke a world record for the largest victory in an international game, winning 31–0.
Not only was the American Samoa team seriously outmatched, they faced passport issues so only one member of their original 20-man senior team was eligible to play. They had to recruit youth players, including three 15-year-olds, to form a makeshift team. Some of them had never played a full 90 minutes before the match with Australia.
Yet the American Samoans showed their fa’asamoa—the Samoan way—by not losing their spirit and even singing and embracing the audience as the match ended.* Goalie Nicky Salupsa said that he enjoyed the match and “wasn’t embarrassed because we all learned something from it. If we had all our players, maybe it would have been only five or six goals, because I was without my best defenders and there was nothing I could do.” Coach Tony Langkilde also stated that “now we are recognised by FIFA, it has really helped spark an interest in football on the islands.”
What’s more, the American Samoa team that got crushed is now celebrated in two movies, one a documentary that revisits the historic loss and shows them 13 years later, still the worst team in FIFA:
And now there’s a fictionalized version coming out this year with the same title that puts actors like Michael Fassbender and Elizabeth Moss to work replicating the 2014 story. So who are the losers now? Put your fa’asamoa to use and see what happens when you fail next. Hollywood might just come calling.
*Other examples of fa’asamoa are:
- Asking for permission before taking photos, using the beach, or doing other activities in a village.
- Sitting down on the floor and covering your legs with a mat when you enter a traditional house (fale).
- Respecting Sunday as a day of church, rest, and quietness.
- Speaking politely and saying “tulou” when you walk in front of someone who is seated.
- Honoring your family (aiga), your language (tautala Samoa), your genealogy (gafa), your chief (matai), your church (lotu), and your obligations (fa’alavelave).