September 27, 2023

From France to Pago Pago. Another Next Goal Wins?

Two French men have started a journey to play in the Oceania Champions League, and make a documentary about it.

Two French men have started a journey to play in the Oceania Champions League, and make a documentary about it.

France AmSamoa
Vladimir Crescenzo (right) and Guillaume Le Jeune are looking to play in the Champions League and make a documentary. (Photo credit: Gol Trotters Production)

Vladimir Crescenzo and Guillaume Le Jeune have always wanted to play in the Champions League, but, as they say themselves, life, school and talent, got in the way.

One day they got the idea of trying to make it to the Champions League yet again. Now at 27 and 28 years old, it’s a bit late for a push in Europe. But perhaps they could try in Oceania?

“As a citizen of France, I watch the Oceania Champions League every year to follow the Caledonian and Tahitian clubs,” Crescenzo, a sports journalist by trade, tells Football in Oceania.

“But I think the preliminary rounds of the Oceania Champions League have a very special flavour, and I really like the idea of seeing teams that are totally amateur trying to win their place in a continental competition.”

Their eyes soon fell on American Samoa outfit Pago Youth.

“Watching Pago Youth FC’s matches, I thought “it’s nice to watch their games, but why not try to go and play with them? If I train physically, I’m sure I can play with these players”. So I told a childhood friend of mine (Guillaume), who I played football with when I was younger, about this crazy project. He was totally seduced by the project and we started the process, Crescenzo says.

Pago Youth
Pago Youth (Photo credit: FFAS)

They then contacted Pago Youth club president Sila Samuelu, who was happy to welcome them.

“Obviously, it is now up to us to train to win our place in the team,” Crescenzo says.

They aim for the 2021 edition of the tournament.

“I want to be very clear about our intentions. Because, for someone who doesn’t know us, and who doesn’t know about the Oceania Champions League either, the project could sound like a joke. And it is definitely not a joke. As I said, I’m passionate about competitions with little media coverage, about underdogs and outsiders, and we have immense respect for teams like Pago Youth and their players, because their only motivation to play football is passion.

“For us, it’s also a way to fulfil a childhood dream. To play football in a foreign country, putting us in conditions close to those of a professional player, with the opportunity to play in a continental competition. American Samoa is one of the only countries in the world where this is possible for amateur players like us.”

This isn’t the first time American Samoa have been the subject of a football documentary. A crew followed the Boys from the Territory on their journey to the historic first-ever national team win and turned it into the highly-acclaimed Next Goal Wins. The documentary is set to get a live-action version, directed by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit) from New Zealand.

Poster for the documentary Next Goal Wins.

Both have previous experience as footballers in their youth and have recently played in the 11th tier of the French pyramid.

“This allowed us to play with players who have already played in regional categories at senior level, the French 7th division. We recently spoke with former Fiji coach Christophe Gamel who told us that the players of Pago Youth FC may have a level close to what we know in France, in senior, in regional 7th division. So it’s very encouraging for us and it confirms our feeling: with training, we can achieve our goal,” Crescenzo says.

Now they attempt to make a documentary of the adventure, along to make the documentary is journalist Léa Pascaud, who will be behind the camera.

In order to make their dream a reality, they have started a Kickstarter campaign. At the time of writing, they have managed to get US$6.136 of the total $10.962 goal.

“The target amount is the minimum needed to make the documentary in professional conditions,” the Kickstarter reads.

“If the money collected exceeds the 10,000€ mark, it would be possible to acquire more high-quality equipment, as well as to externalize some of the production’s technical tasks, for a higher-quality final result.”

 Watch the Kickstarter video here

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