Oceanian football thinking big

New Zealand’s success in qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, their first finals since Spain 1982, has provided a welcome fillip to the whole of Oceanian football, with the All Whites’ fellow Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) members determined to one day follow their lead. And it was in this spirit that a FIFA seminar was held in Auckland in late November 2009, presided over by OFC President Reynald Temarii. The seminar brought 30 representatives from 11 of the confederation’s member associations around the table to work on developing football in the region.

On the agenda for the various presidents, general secretaries, development heads and technical directors present in the New Zealand capital were subjects as wide-ranging as football administration, technical development, the media and long-term planning. “Though we may never establish ourselves among the biggest nations in world football, just because we are smaller doesn’t mean that we can’t be ambitious,” said the Tahitian FA’s Administrative Director Pure Nena, succinctly summing up the mood of those involved.

Looking towards the future
Among the issues discussed was the ‘Win in Oceania with Oceania’ initiative, broadly based on the ‘Win in Africa with Africa’ programme, which was handed a budget of eight million US dollars by FIFA for the three years spanning 2009-11. This considerable investment is being put to good use improving the foundation stones of the regional game, in such key areas as infrastructure, administration, the media, futsal and sports medicine.

The seminar gave participants the opportunity to make an overall assessment of the project’s progress nearly a year since getting underway. It also opened discussions on the upcoming stages in the development project in Oceania, a healthy exchange of ideas which enabled the FIFA and OFC heads to gauge each other’s expectations and requirements. The theme of social responsibility through football was also aired, particularly with regard to the issues of health, education and citizenship, as well as the OFC’s ‘Just Play’ programme.

Though we may never establish ourselves among the biggest nations in world football, just because we are smaller doesn’t mean that we can’t be ambitious.
Pure Nena, Tahiti FA.

Another item on the agenda was the presentation of provisional plans aimed at technical development and hosting competitions in the region. FIFA’s representative outlined the new regulations covering world football’s governing body’s Financial Assistance Programme, with FAs now needing to employ a national technical director in a separate role to that of the national coach in order to be eligible. This measure is intended to ensure associations have someone in place to focus on technical development in the medium- and long-term.

A FIFA World Cup in the Pacific
Finally, it would be remiss not to mention the ambition and confidence shown via the region’s two bids to host a FIFA World Cup, the first of which is Tahiti’s bid to welcome the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2011 to their shores.

“We may not yet have what it takes to host a World Cup like the one in South Africa, but we’ve got everything required for a Beach Soccer World Cup,” said Billy Vaitoare, who is heading the Tahitian campaign. “This competition is within our reach and would be a huge boost to the image of Oceania and Polynesia on the world stage.”

The second of these projects would be the joint hosting of the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2015 across several Oceania nations, a bid which has ignited passions across the Pacific. And though everyone involved is fully aware that the outcome of these two bids remains undecided, whatever happens the work put into these statements of intent by OFC nations will no doubt be positive for the future of the regional game.