By: Patrick Madden | Dec 6, 2018
Siaosi Veimau was 11 when he and his family of 12 made the drastic decision to move from the pacific island of Tonga, to America in search of a better life.
“The hardest part about the move was that my dad and I were learning all these new things at the same time, in terms of life and culture. There wasn’t a place or person I could look to for guidance, but there was one thing that remained the same: rugby,” said Veimau.
Moves like this aren’t uncommon for many Pacific Islanders, but some look to America as their chance to make it in professional sport.
“I knew from a young age that sport would always be my ticket out of American Samoa. My family and friends always looked up to me. They believed that through either American football or rugby, I’d make a name for myself and get me out of the islands,” said Faafetai Teo, who played for the USA Islanders, a team consisting of the best American rugby players who are of Polynesian descent.
Athletes and mentors such a Siaosi Veimau, Tai Tuisamoa and Faafetai Teo all started playing rugby for different reasons, but what they all have in common is why they couldn’t picture their lives any other way.
Rugby does not only connect people from all around the world, but more importantly, it has provided a home away from home and a second chance for many.
The Pacific Island Rugby Culture
If we took a look at the different USA National Teams and cast our eyes around rugby powerhouses in the USA, we cannot help but notice a strong Pacific Island influence. However, this pattern is not something just in America. If we take a closer look across the top teams around the world, there are an overwhelming number of players of Polynesian descent.
Island culture represents a group of people who are intelligent, spiritual, determined, adaptable and proud of their roots but most importantly benevolent, which flows through rugby culture like a main artery. Now we are seeing them as rugby super stars and with it comes the price of adaptation to other cultures and responsibilities.
In the Pacific Islands, rugby is family, and on a deeper level some consider it tribal. Rugby stands at the core of tradition, and a culture that carries with it the heritage and a dominant history. We can see the transcending influence of successful players from the Pacific Islands that echos inspiration throughout the world. We need to follow suit, and begin to further sport cultures into the melting pot of American football, baseball, wrestling, basketball and so on.