Since the 1970s, Samoan participation in American gridiron football has grown exponentially. In American Sāmoa (and other transpacific Samoan communities), football has come to represent both a real and imagined “way out” of what appears to many as a strangled field of possibility. The visibility and vibrancy of football in American Sāmoa is rooted in Samoan histories of migration to the United States, Samoan cultural sensibilities, the changing market of the American football industry, and narrowing economic opportunities. The transnational nature of football migration is key to understanding the appeal of playing football, the rewards that accrue to successful players, and how these resources have continued to transform conditions of possibility (materially and ideologically) for young people in the islands. This article explores the layered and complex motivations for football participation as shaped by prospective forms of capital, transnational sporting institutions, and historical contingency. Focused on history, economy, and a transformed vision of the future, it offers a critical genealogy of football in (American) Sāmoa and Samoans in football.


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pp. 281-301
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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