The keeper who conceded 31 goals in a game


Imagine having a really bad day at work, and then imagine having that same bad day repeated 31 times. That’s what Nicky Salapu, the goalkeeper for American Samoa’s soccer team, experienced on April 11, 2001.

On that day, American Samoa played against Australia in a World Cup qualifier match and lost by a huge margin of 31-0. Salapu, who was just 20 years old at the time, had to try to hide his tears during the game.

The American Samoa team was made up mostly of teenagers, hastily put together because of certain rules about who could play for the team. Only players with American passports were allowed to play, and out of a squad of 20, Salapu was the only one who qualified.

The team struggled to find enough players, so they ended up selecting high school kids, some as young as 15 years old. With such a young and inexperienced team, it was tough for them to compete against much stronger teams like Australia.

During the game against Australia, Salapu’s main goal was to not let the score go past 22-0, as Australia had already beaten another team by that score. But unfortunately, Australia scored 31 goals.

Salapu felt that Australia’s approach was unfair and unsportsmanlike. He believes they should have stopped scoring after a certain point instead of continuing to run up the score.

It took Salapu and his team 10 years to redeem themselves. In 2011, they won their first official FIFA-recognized match against Tonga, with a score of 2-1. This was a huge moment of redemption for Salapu and the team after their devastating loss to Australia.

Their journey was even turned into a movie called “Next Goal Wins,” which tells the story of their struggle and eventual victory. Salapu still plays for the national team, and his son Dylan plays for the Under-17s team.


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