While some may view soccer solely as a sport, for a select few, it is a way to be a part of something far more important. Fifth-year business management and human resources student Tasha Inong had the opportunity to play soccer on the world stage while representing her heritage.
Last summer, Inong competed on the American Samoa Women’s National Soccer Team in the World Cup qualifiers.
Inong started her collegiate career playing for Peninsula College in Washington, before transferring to CPP and becoming a Bronco, where she played for two years.
“When Tasha completed her eligibility as far as playing in college, I wasn’t sure if she was going to try and continue to play or if that was the last moment of competitive soccer for her,” CPP women’s soccer head coach Jay Mason said. “When she came by the office to say hello and she said ‘I played for my country in the World Cup qualifier,’ it was a complete surprise to me.”
The opportunity to play for the American Samoa team was presented to Inong when her Peninsula College teammate mentioned the team’s need for players.
The American Samoa national team’s head coach Larry Mana’o saw Inong play when his daughters, who played for Everett Community College, played against Peninsula College. When he found out she was of Samoan descent, he was eager to bring her onto the team.
“When her name was brought up, I said, ‘Was she that center-midfielder on that team?’ and they said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Get her, get her now!’” Mana’o said.
Inong decided to take up the opportunity and began practicing with the team.
The whole process happened so quickly that Inong only had a month with the team before their first match.
“I had to be proud to represent [Samoa], even though I wasn’t born and raised there. There were only 18 girls and 10 of us were not from Samoa, but one of our relatives was born in Samoa,” Inong said.
In 2011, the American Samoa team struggled quite a bit, losing all four games by large margins. However, this past summer, the team improved and began making a name for itself. Despite losing all three games, they were much more competitive, putting up a battle in each match.
“I call her ‘my little engine’ on the team, that’s her nickname,” Mana’o said. “She goes end-to-end, box-to-box, and her work rate is probably the highest on the team.”
In recent years, female soccer players such as Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, who play for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team, have spoken out about the salary gap between men and women athletes.
While the U.S. Soccer Federation has tried to rectify the inequality, there is still a gap in pay between the men and women’s programs.
“After the U.S. Soccer Federation finalized a five-year deal, which generally increased women’s salaries, it still wasn’t enough to close the gap,” Inong said. “Professionally, men’s soccer has been around longer but there’s no doubt that women have surpassed the men’s team in winnings, like World Cups.”
Not only has the women’s team won more trophies, it also hold the lead when it comes to viewership. The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is the most watched soccer game in American history, with 26.7 million viewers.
This outnumbers the amount of views the Stanley Cup and NBA Finals received in 2015.
“I can only hope that in the future, that gap between men’s and women’s salaries will inevitably diminish,” Inong said. “Women’s soccer is continuing to advance and develop in a positive way and I believe we deserve to be recognized for it.”
Inong was given an amazing opportunity and she ran with it, allowing her to represent her country while playing the sport she loves.
“I’m super proud of her for taking the opportunity because it takes a lot of courage to play for your country,” Mason said. “It is something that a small amount of people get to experience and a small amount of people understand the weight of.”
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