World Cup Diary: Tattoo pushes Fa'atau to limits Georgia cannot match

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The Independent Online

Warning to Georgia: do not single out Lome Fa'atau for punishment on Sunday - he doesn't do pain. Indeed, when they hear about the tattoo that covers the Samoan wing from the top of his knees, up his thighs, around his groin and stomach, right up to the start of his ribcage, Georgia will realise that, to Fa'atau, pain is something other people feel.

On first look, the tattoo - or pe'a - is rather attractive, being a mirage of tribal symbols and ancient designs broken up by traditional Samoan symbols such as butterflies and a centipede. But before you rush out to have one done, listen to what he went through to get it.

At 19, Fa'atau was told by his family that he was to have a pe'a as a sort of rite of passage. So for eight hours a day for the next fortnight, he became a human canvas for a Samoan tattooist known as a tautau. And what did the tautau use? A laser, perhaps, or maybe an elaborate mismash of sterilised needles? Uh, no - the entire operation was carried out with a pig's tooth attached to the end of a drumstick.

The end product is so vast that if you were to cut the skin from Fa'atau's body and lay it flat on the ground, the entire tattoo would make up the shape of a traditional Samoan canoe.

"When you're having it done, sometimes you think you can't get through it, that you just can't do it any more," Fa'atau said this week. "But if you give up halfway, it brings great disgrace on your family. I know of some people who couldn't finish it and they live with the shame."

Not to mention a half-finished canoe on their back.