Friday, October 10, 2008

South Pacific: The Football Game

A pipeline from the Pacific Island kingdom of Tonga has delivered a Polynesian influence to this Texas town’s churches, markets and championship football team, which won state titles in 2005 and 2007 among Texas’ largest schools.... The proximity of Euless to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, which is located partly within the city limits, has brought a remarkable diversity to this town of 54,000.
Thirteen of the 24 Trinity players who have made all-state since the 1980s, and 16 members of the current roster, are of Tongan descent.
“When you think of Texas high school football, you think of country kids, farm kids; you don’t expect to see players from the South Pacific,” said Sioeli Pauni, who has two sons on the Trinity team.
The parents of many players work at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport as baggage handlers and food-service employees, facilitating affordable travel on special family occasions. Others are self-employed as landscapers, carpenters and masons. Meanwhile, their sons are resolute linemen and linebackers, who weigh from 200 to 333 pounds and find in football a brisk physical exertion similar to the Tongan national sport of rugby.
Each time he knocks a defensive lineman on his back, Uatakini Cocker, a 6-foot-2, 297-pound offensive tackle, screams: “Mate ma’a Tonga,” meaning, “I will die for Tonga.” Later, the playful Cocker said, he often has to explain his heritage to opposing players and fans in this typical postgame conversation:
“Are you Mexican?”
“O.K., because you would be a very big Mexican.” —NYT

(Via Dzyd Jane)



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