- Elliot Ragomo is perhaps Oceania’s most decorated futsal player
- The Solomon Islands star will lead his side to a fourth World Cup next year
- Kurukuru have set their sights on first-ever knockout-stage qualification
Elliot Ragomo has achieved quite a bit in his career. A four-time World Cup captain, over a decade wearing the national team colours and the only Pacific Islander to play futsal in Brazil’s elite competition are just some of his personal achievements. Not bad for a player from the remote Roviana island, nearly a day’s boat trip from Solomon Islands' capital and football focal point, Honiara.
Now the Solomon Islands skipper has his focus on leading his team to history-making qualification into the knockout rounds when the delayed FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021™ takes place in September next year. It will be the Kurukuru’s fourth appearance on the world stage, but even reaching that elite stage is an achievement in itself.
Unlike most of their well-resourced international rivals, the Solomon Islands, quite incredibly, doesn't have a single indoor futsal court across its sprawling archipelago. Yet the country does have one World Cup win to its name: a memorable action-packed encounter against Guatemala in 2012. And after dominating Oceania for over a decade, they now have heightened ambitions.
“We have invested in our coaches with the aim of reaching the second round,” Ragomo told FIFA.com during a rare visit to his Western Province home. “We want to achieve a better goal than ever before and are really working towards that.”
Under Brazilian head coach Vinicius Laite, the Solomons - who resemble the South Americans on court with their distinctive canary yellow shirts and blue shorts - are preparing with intent. Ragomo described preparations as “way stronger” than previous World Cup cycles, with a strength and conditioning coach now added to their coaching staff.
“We had a strong program planned to prepare for Lithuania before the virus hit,” he said. “We were going to have a lot of international games, but once everything is back to normal I expect we will have that again.
“Our plan is try and go further in this our fourth World Cup, and our coach had preparations based around that.”
Football is comfortably the No1 sport in the Solomon Islands, with futsal, or at least small-sided games, enjoying more popularity than perhaps anywhere else in the Pacific. There are numerous local stars who have prospered in the futsal arena, several of whom also play 11-a-side football at elite level, but none have matched Ragomo’s achievements on the indoor stage.
The Kurukuru skipper was headhunted after the 2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup and he describes playing for Minas Tenis Club against the likes of Brazilian megastar Falcao as “an unbelievable experience”.
“Small-sided games are really popular here and everyone plays it,” Ragomo said. “It is actually really growing even further. Our results in Oceania have helped the popularity, so a lot of people follow and play it here.”
The Solomons needed all their quality and resilience to qualify through Oceania last year, twice coming from behind and needing penalties to edge New Zealand in the final. And the fact that Solomon coach Laite suggested New Zealand are on track to qualify for the next World Cup is further evidence of a dramatic rise in quality across the confederation.
“There has always been strong character in our team, and that is partly down to the experience we have in the side,” Ragomo said. "We have a bit more advantage over other Pacific countries in that sense.
“Everybody [in Oceania] is trying to do well and really lift now. So that is why we are building courts, implementing training programs and develop leagues in the Solomons.”