The first annual Kava Bowl will take place Friday, June 20, at 7 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium on the University of Utah campus. The game will be the culmination of a three-day football clinic for the players and months of planning for the Polynesian Youth Civic Association of Utah. The players and coaches began arriving Wednesday afternoon for the three-day event. The players are all recent high school graduates, with many getting ready for Division 1A college careers.
Brian Soi is one of those players. Soi was a high school All-American for many publications and is anxiously awaiting a test result to see what his future football career holds.
"I'll find out in about three weeks what I will be doing for football next year. If I don't pass (he must score high enough on the ACT to qualify to play at the Division IA level) I can either keep trying until January (to pass the test) and miss this year of football, or I can go to Dixie (State College in St. George) and play two years, but I got to see the results," said Soi.
One of the reasons Soi is playing in the Kava Bowl is his affiliation with PYCAU founder Pani Ioelu. The Sois lived in Hawaii until 1999 and one of their neighbors and friends was the Ioelu family. Pani and his family moved to Utah two years before the Sois, but remained close.
Soi says he has been working hard physically, but especially mentally the past couple of months. He showcased one of his non-football talents as he played the piano at the conclusion of the interview.
"I am playing in this game for fun," Soi continued. "I have been cooped up for a month studying and it will be fun to get out and play again. My hope is that good things can come out of this for the association."
Many of the players and coaches have traveled great distances to attend this week. Maselino Tautu came all the way from American Samoa to help coach and instruct the players.
"Pani is a close friend of ours. Not close in the normal sense, but close because we recognize him as a brother that helps Polynesian youth. He has put together a good effort to mix together the people of our island and all the youth here," said Tautu. Maselino has been coaching for about seven years. He says he does it strictly because of his love for the youth. He hopes that maybe his small part can have an impact on the lives to help them to be better players, but more importantly better people. "I am excited for this because we can share our different talents with everyone so we can learn and educate ourselves not only about the game, but about each other."
As Pani and everyone involved has stressed, the whole purpose of the football game is to raise funds for the PYCAU. The funds will go toward workshops put together to help all youth, not just Polynesians, to better understand what it takes and how to go on to college. The association will be hosting a fund-raising dinner banquet Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Salt Lake Community College Ballroom. For information about the banquet, contact Tangi Atiga at 252-1159 or Jack Faasou at 918-6199.
Tickets for the game will be sold at the University box office beginning Thursday, June 19 at noon or Friday, June 20, at 9 a.m. The cost for the game will be $10 for adults or $6 for youth ages 5-11.