Jonny Saelua did not always envision herself as an international soccer player. What she really wanted to do was join a dance company and “travel the world just performing.”
“Anything modern, jazz, maybe a little bit of ballet,” said Saelua, a center back for American Samoa’s men’s team and a performing arts major at the University of Hawaii. But for now, Saelua is doing her dancing in cleats. On Tuesday, the 23-year-old Saelua played a key role in American Samoa’s 2-1 victory against Tonga in a 2014 World Cup qualifier.
It was American Samoa’s first victory in international soccer, ending a 30-game losing streak in which it had been outscored by 229-12. And Saelua apparently became the first transgender player to compete on a World Cup stage.
Saelua is part of the fa’afafine, biological males who identify themselves as a third sex in Polynesian culture. Fa’afafine means “to be a woman” in Samoan. According to 30-year-old Alex Su’a, who heads the Samoa Fa’afafine Society, there are 1,500 fa’afafine in Samoa and American Samoa.
by The Punjapit Alliance