APIA, Samoa, October 26 – In a damning report to Samoa’s prime minister, the Pacific nation’s rugby captain has blamed their World Cup failure on a lack of professionalism and a culture of alcohol abuse in the team management.
At one stage the players threatened to walk out of the tournament in New Zealand because of the manager’s attitude, according to Mahonri Schwalger, who prepared the report for Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.
The players only stayed after being reminded that Samoans had gone without food so they could donate money to get the team, known as Manu Samoa, to the event.
Samoa went to the World Cup with high hopes of repeating their performances of the 1990s, when they made the play-offs three times, but only managed third place in their pool behind South Africa and Wales.
In his report, published on the Sunday Samoan newspaper’s website Tuesday, Schwalger accused senior officials of treating the tournament as a “massive holiday” and said manager Tuala Mathew Vaea “would disappear from the team for two to three days during all the weeks.
“He would also go out drinking every single day,” he said.
Samoan Rugby Union vice-chairman Lefau Harry Schuster “was there to enjoy himself with his mates”, while chief executive Su’a Peter Schuster was “bringing his friends, board members to the hotel to continually drink,” Schwalger alleged.
“We found this a big distraction for the players whilst they are trying to prepare for every game,” he said.
Assistant manager Ryan Schuster, he went on, “could not do the job properly. His unprofessionalism was a bit much as he would constantly swear to the players and treated everything as a joke.”
But Schwalger praised the coaching staff, who had to perform their duties without getting “what they needed to do their job properly, like training gears, balls, training equipment etc”.
The report did not mention a threatened player walkout, but Schwalger told the newspaper the team only stayed because he reminded them of the sacrifices Samoans made to raise US$5.2 million to get them to New Zealand.
“We talked about the young school students who donated their lunch money to the team. About our people who would rather give to the Manu and go without food on the table. About the special bond the Manu has with our people.
“It was our responsibility as players to stay true and play our guts out for our people,” he said. “That was the only reason why the players stayed. It was for our people, not only in Samoa, but all over the world.”
The Samoan prime minister, in a statement from Australia where he is attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, said he was surprised at the tone of the report and would meet with the team management on his return.
Tuilaepa, who is also chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, said he had also ordered a full audit of World Cup funds.
On the face of the report, Tuilaepa said he expected a higher level of professionalism from the team management and noted the issues were not mentioned when he met the team during the tournament.
“Every time I turned up, I was told everything was alright and none of these issues were ever raised with me. The tone of the captain’s letter, therefore, surprises me,” he said.
“In hindsight therefore, I would imagine, none of these issues would’ve surfaced if the team provided the expected results on the field. The player selection process, I think, is also not without fault.”