November was a busy month for the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) with an Extraordinary Congress and Strategic Workshop being held in Papeete, Tahiti to mark the 40th Anniversary celebrations of the confederation.
OFC President Reynald Temarii welcomed guests from FIFA, UEFA, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, AFC, and The FA (England), Football Federation Australia (FFA) and the United Nations. FIFA General Secretary, Dr. Urs Linsi, UEFA's Lars-Christer Olsson, were joined by Chairman of the FA, Geoffrey Thompson, and the FA's Head of International Relations, Jane Bateman and Ron Harvey of the FFA.
During the conference the OFC signed co-operation agreements with The FA and the FFA for technical assistance and development programmes to be implemented within the region over the next several years. It was also agreed with the UN that football should also be used a development tool within the OFC. The confederation will now actively help its member associations work against key social issues affecting them such as low rates of literacy, education and health.
The OFC launched their O-League competition later in the month with Christian Karembeu arriving in Auckland to oversee the public unveiling of the new tournament format, replacing the former OFC Champions League, at a packed press conference in Auckland, New Zealand.
Karembeu, born in the island paradise of New Caledonia, said it was natural for him to want to give something back to the region that had kick-started his professional career.
Karembeu on call
"My aim is to help young people from the South Pacific know they can fulfil their dreams of playing football," he said. "But it is not just about football. It is about health, education, literacy - this is important.
"The O-League will provide greater opportunities for players in the South Pacific islands to show their talent and, hopefully, go on to represent the OFC at the FIFA Club World Cup," Karembeu went on to add.
In Group A of the O-League, defending champions, Auckland City , drew Mont Dore of New Caledonia, and, following the withdrawal of Port Vila Sharks, NZFC rivals, Waitakere United. In Group B, Marist FC of the Solomon Islands returns to face Ba, of Fiji, and AS Temanava of Tahiti. Matches will be played on a home-and-away basis with the two group winners playing in a two-legged final in April 2007.
The former Real Madrid star also travelled to Vanuatu with OFC President Reynald Temarii to promote the creation of a National Futsal Championship and said the trip was extremely positive. "The people in Vanuatu were very friendly and treated us like royalty, I was very humbled," he said. "The potential for Futsal to take off is high and I hope this National Championship will reach out to include 450 primary schools."
The FIFA World Cup winner has been an OFC Ambassador since the draw for Germany 2006 took place and he attended the first Pacific Youth Festival in September. Karembeu is expected back in the region in February 2007.