The team is ranked 204th in FIFA soccer standings
It made the record books when it lost to Australia 30-1
It lost 30 consecutive games before its win against Tonga
Talk about something to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.
The American Samoa soccer team, ranked dead last among soccer teams around the world by FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, made history this week when it won its first ever international game.
That’s cause for celebration for a team that for 16 years had never savored victory.
A team that played 30 games since 1994, losing all 30.
One that set a record for the largest loss in international soccer history, when Australia trounced it 30-1 in 2001.
But all that changed Tuesday when it beat Tonga 2-1 in a pre-qualifying game for the 2014 World Cup.
“I hope that we can now improve our standing in the FIFA rankings and get into the hundreds,” said coach Thomas Rongen to the country’s football federation. “We are 204 at the moment and this win will have helped.”
Rongen, who until May coached the U.S. Under-20 team, was hired just three weeks ago.
He told the Football Federation he wasn’t even sure where the tiny U.S. protectorate in the South Pacific was located when he was approached for the job.
“I live in Florida and own some property in the Bahamas, so I’m an island kind of guy,” he said. “I looked at a map and said to my wife, ‘Hey, it’s an island. Do you want to do it?’ She said, ‘Let’s go. So we headed down.”
Soccer isn’t a big draw in the island of about 55,000. And, Rongen said, the sport is a labor of love for the squad.
“They’re not getting anything to be here and some are spending time away from their jobs and are losing money because of that,” he said.
“It’s amateur football at its best. The game at the highest level can be very cynical, but this is just about 23 guys making sacrifices,” Rongen said.