A new home for football in Tonga
06 Mar 2020
- Tonga Football Association inaugurates new technical centre
- First football-specific facility in Vava'u
- FIFA Legend Yakubu Ayegbeni invited as guest of honour
The most popular sport in the island group of Vava’u, in Tonga, now has a place to call home. This Friday the Tonga Football Association (TFA) inaugurated a new technical centre, which is the centrepiece of the country’s plan to grow and develop the game outside of the capital Nuku’alofa.
In an archipelago where rugby is the leading sport, the growth in participation in football from a grassroots level has been remarkable and steady over the course of the last few years. However, most of this increase has been limited to Nuku’alofa, where the TFA Academy is. The new technical centre in Vava’u — a district with a population of around 15,000, among whom football is the number one sport — is a key step in the way to change that.
The first football-specific facility in Vava’u — complete with administration offices, changing rooms and a natural grass pitch — was officially inaugurated during a ceremony of which Nigerian FIFA Legend Yakubu Ayegbeni was one of the guests of honours. The centre is now open to affiliated schools and clubs, and is the result of a USD 750,000 project funded by the FIFA Forward programme for football development.
“I am sure that we will look back in a few years and see this as a watershed moment in the history of football development in Tonga. Within some communities in particular, a technical centre is absolutely indispensable to capitalise on football’s popularity and converge all the efforts to grow the game. This is certainly the case in Vava’u,” said FIFA’s Director of Member Associations for Asia & Oceania, Sanjeevan Balasingam.
The Forward Programme is a global development initiative through which FIFA invests up to USD 6 million in each member association during the 2019-2022 cycle. This investment covers operational costs and also tailor-made football development projects such as the new technical centre in Tonga.