Guam is a new team on the international scene, which isn’t exactly surprising. Guam is a tiny island out in the Pacific Ocean with a population of 170,000. The fact they have an Ultimate scene at all is astonishing. The fact they’ve managed to get a team all the way out to Royan, France for WCBU 2017? That’s just phenomenal. They’ve focused on beach. They sought WFDF accreditation pretty much just so that they could play in this tournament.
So never mind the fact that a third of the team is based in the USA, and never mind the fact another third are moving there after this tournament. These are all people who have lived on Guam, and who have fallen in love with the island. There’s a real sense of passion for the country. Loud chants of ‘Biba Guåhån’ echo out contagiously from the team and their supports. The local children join in, and it’s no surprise. An online Chamorro-English dictionary defines ‘biba’ as ‘to burst forth with exclamations of approval’ – something which anyone in the stadium could also have told you.
Guam has a very transient population. A lot of people move in and out. It’s far easier for them to get to Asia than the USA (despite being a USA territory), and so they play a lot of Asian tournaments (Boracay, Thailand, Vietnam). Even then, their one club team (the Guambats) usually relies on pick-ups. The fact they’ve got 15 players out here now is testament to their commitment.
And they’re good players too. The least experienced (Christa Shen) was playing so well the USA coaches were apparently making some enquiries, given the USA-Guam link. Spirit captain Thomas Frawley (a former Navy rescue diver) acts as the human embodiment of a Golden Retriever, chasing down anything his teammates put out. And captain Matthew ‘Sunshine’ Heibel leads the way. He’s the only one with real international experience (WUCC 2014, Iku; WCBU 2015, captain of Japan Mixed; WUGC, Philippines Men’s Masters). His enthusiastic demeanour is infectious, and he lets me know about the team:
“One of our team goals was to play like we belong here. To play with no fear. We’re mostly home grown, which is difficult to do when people keep moving in and out. But we’ve already put up some points against the big teams, and we’re gunning for our first victory. Our aim is top 6 in the pool, so that we can get some good crossovers. We’re improving every game.”
He leads the way in stats. But as big a personality as he is, he knows how much the team is everyone involved. He speaks humbly about wife and husband team Jessica and Nicholas Toft – the two players who kickstarted Ultimate on Guam back in 2004, and who now get to wear the team shirt on the international stage. He mentions all the support from back home, waiting to see them streamed. There’s even people in the stands, who’ve travelled all the way to see them play.
For a team like this, it seems only fitting to end with their supporters’ messages of support.
Trey – I’m just super proud of these guys. They’ve worked really hard to be here, and I’m proud to support them. Biba Guåhån!
Jordan – We love you. Biba Guåhån!
Nicole – Now’s the time to let all your training pay off. Biba Guåhån!
Andrea – They worked hard to get here. Play hard, represent us well, and have fun. Biba Guåhån!
By Harry Mason.