Sports haven’t always been inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community and many players have kept their gender identities and sexual orientation under wraps while on the field.
But with Jaiyah Saelua, there was never any hiding who she truly is. Saelua identifies as fa’afafine, which is a third gender in Samoan culture. As the first openly transgender (and fa’afafine) professional footballer, Saelua represented LGBTQ+ folks and her American Samoan community within the world of soccer.
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Now, she’s getting her flowers in two new films. In the upcoming Next Goal Wins, American Samoa soccer team, infamous for their brutal 31-0 FIFA loss in 2001, hires coach Thomas Ronger (Michael Fassbender) in hopes of turning around the world’s worst soccer team before the World Cup Qualifiers arrive.
The heartfelt underdog comedy directed by Taika Waititi, will also feature nonbinary actor Kaimana, a fellow fa’afafine, who portrays Saelua in the film. And while the film prepares to hit theaters this week, Saelua gets her own feature in a new short film.
Creative studio Accompany partnered with the film to create an exclusive line of recreational merchandise to celebrate Next Goal Wins, Samoan culture, and the Samoan Way (known as “fa’a Samoa”). From athletic socks, to drawstring bags, to hand-stitched soccer balls by the nonprofit group Alive & Kicking, the collection features original work by Japanese and Samoan artist Yuki Kihara, who also is fa’afafine.
Accompany also made a donation to the Society of Fa’afafine in American Samoa. And to promote it all is a short film focused on Saelua, Waititi, and the Samoan Way. Check out the short film below.
Next Goal Wins hits theaters on November 17.
In 2017, Jenkins made history as the first out Black trans woman elected to public office in the US.