Nearly twenty years of losing World Cup qualifiers came to an end for the worst team in the world after they beat the third worst team in the world 2-1. It turns out all they had to do was recruit a transgender defender. That has a ring to it. Transgender player Johnny ‘Jayieh’ Saelua made his international debut and though the acceptance of his inclusion is very much down to the nature of the culture he lives in, it’s still a significant breakthrough and one which the rest of the footballing world can learn from. In this part of the world the culture is such that even gay players feel forced to hide this part of themselves, publicly denying an important part of their identity. Racism may be getting kicked out but what about homophobia? Ignorance is ignorance no matter which guise it adopts.
American Samoa had lost every previous qualifier they played in but thanks to some suspect goalkeeping from the Tonga stopper, some top notch defending from Johnny ‘Jayieh’ Saelua, and the passion of their coach, they won 2-1 and banished the memories of that record 31-0 defeat to Australia. For those of you who can be arsed watching something longer than 15 seconds, you’ll notice the lack of histrionics as well as the pure joy from all those involved. They won’t be going to the World Cup, in fact they may not even win another game but they won this one and that’s something that can never be taken away from them. This is what football is all about. So well done to American Samoa for breaking through two important barriers. You are a tiny shining beacon for us all.