ONTD Political

You go-a, American Samoa :D

12:35 am - 11/25/2011
Worst Team In World Football Make History Twice In One Game – Seal First Ever Win, Field Transgender Defender

Ranked joint-bottom of FIFA’s world rankings (204th), with a score of zero points to their name, American Samoa went in to a World Cup Qualifying clash against Tonga (ranked 202nd) as underdogs. However, defensive player Johnny ‘Jayieh’ Saelua, making his debut, would help make history for the most minnowy of all minnows for two reasons.

Firstly, in beating Tonga 2-1, American Samoa registered their first-ever competitive victory, and secondly, the team became the first in world football to field a transgender player (Saelua) in an official match.

Apparently, Saelua is part of the fa’afafine, biological males who identify as a third sex, that is widely accepted in Polynesian culture. The tough-tackling defender played a blinder in the game, winning man of the match (insert clichéd “don’t you mean ‘woman of the match’” unfunny ‘banter’ here).

Saelua said: “The team accept me and we have that mutual respect. Which is great. It’s all part of the culture.”

American Samoa’s coach Thomas Rongen could’ve been a little more enlightened when he commented on Saelua’s inclusion in the team: “I’ve really got a female starting at centre back,” he said. “Can you imagine that in England or Spain?”. However he did raise a very pertinent point. How would Premier League fans react to a player like Saelua playing in their league?

If you think the world of football is still in the dark ages over gay players, then just imagine how far down the list of priorities transgender players and fans are in FIFA’s to-do list. Therefore, the appearance of Saelua is an historic and extremely positive step for the game. Ironically, the game was played at the JS Blatter Field. One shudders to think what Sepp would say about the historic game.

Still, well done American Samoa (who should now leapfrog the likes of San Marino, Samoa, Monserrat and Andorra in the rankings), and well done Johnny Saelua.


I've seen a few articles about the victory but most focusing on the "first ever win" thing, not even mentioning Saelua.
koken23 25th-Nov-2011 06:59 am (UTC)
As I understand it (part of my husband's culture, not mine) identifying as fa'afafine is in some ways a little different to the usually-accepted meaning of transgender in the 'Western' world, and I wish this had been acknowledged a little better in the article.

That said, this is wonderful. From one lover of football (and defensive player) to another, well done Saelua. You apparently played an exceptional match, and I'm glad to see you play at the highest level under any gender label you wish.
schmiss 25th-Nov-2011 08:19 am (UTC)
I wasn't sure about the exact terminology, but I didn't want to add a note to correct it because what if it was right and I made a fool of myself, so yeah. The article is from a soccer website so I'm just glad they used non-offensive terminology and the comments weren't entirely rage-inducing.
koken23 25th-Nov-2011 08:40 am (UTC)
It's hard to express, because there are some words that don't translate well between the various Pacific island languages and English, but I think it's a bit like this...

A MtF trans person (as it's usually understood in the 'Western' model) would be biologically male, but would identify as female, and might prefer to use feminine pronouns - they are female, but in a body that doesn't match it. Yes? This is usually fairly accurate, in simple terms?

(If I cause offence to anyone here, I wholeheartedly apologise. The nuances of trans identity are not something I understand as well as I would wish to, and I'm kind of struggling for the right words in my second or third language!)

A fa'afafine like Saelua is biologically male, but identifies as neither male nor female - his identity is as a fa'afafine, which is a different thing altogether. The usual way for it to be expressed is like this:

"This is my father's brother, Jonny. He's my aunty."

In English it sounds faintly nonsensical, but in Samoan (and across much of the rest of Polynesia, sometimes under different names) it makes perfect sense.

Fa'afafine have their own dialect of Samoan that they use among themselves, they have all sorts of things unique to them as fa'afafine. It's a sort of mini cultural identity as well as a gender thing.
hinoema 25th-Nov-2011 01:27 pm (UTC)
Is that like a Two Spirit?

atomic_joe2 25th-Nov-2011 11:41 am (UTC)
I love the beautiful game as its the most exciting and absorbing sport on Earth but there is a hell of a long way to go with equality issues particularly with people of colour managing top-flight teams in Britain.

There are always rumours that players that are gay are too scared to come out too which is shocking in this day and age.

You call it 'football' on a mostly American forum so fair play!

dangerousdame 25th-Nov-2011 06:22 pm (UTC)
I'd swear this was an inspirational comedy movie along the lines of The Mighty Ducks, if only the team were children.
sesmo 25th-Nov-2011 10:03 pm (UTC)
It might yet make a movie. But I'm sure they'll make a hash of the cultural meaning of fa'afafine.
barankhy 26th-Nov-2011 04:43 pm (UTC)
Well, the Iron Ladies were made into a movie and the story of Nong Tum was made into one as well, so we might get a non-US inspirational movie :D ?
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