Since its launch in 1999, the innovative GOAL programme has made a significant contribution in bringing peace, rehabilitation and unity to the Solomon Islands. FIFA President of Joseph S. Blatter initiated the project, one of eleven similar programmes, with the aim of enhancing opportunities through football and extending a hand to the Solomon Islands at a time when the country was embroiled in crisis.
When the Solomon Islands Football Federation (SIFF) was selected to receive a 'pilot' GOAL project, the Pacific Island nation was steeped in turmoil with ethnic tension causing chaotic disruption throughout the country. Civil disorder continued until 2002 when calm was restored with the intervention from the government and the call for the assembly of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI). More than 3,000 police and peacekeeping personnel were drafted in to reestablish law and order.
But even during the tense times football remained a passion for the people from the 900 scattered islands and atolls known affectionately as the "Hapi Islands". Honiara the capital city located on the larger island of Guadalcanal was picked as the location for the first GOAL project which involved a complete renovation of the Lawson Tama Stadium. The aim was to facilitate the return of international football to the country. By 1993 the playing facilities were had deteriorated to such an extent, that the Federation was banned from staging home fixtures. Matters were not helped by the tense social situation - although that was soon to change.
Construction work on the ground began in December 2000 and was completed eight months later. Football legend Sir Bobby Charlton was invited to officially open the refurbished Lawson Tama Stadium in August 2001 and kick-start a whole host of new domestic and international sporting activities. The results were almost immediate and included the national team's success in the OFC qualifying rounds for the FIFA Confederation Cup 2004 and then for 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, where they finished second in the Oceanian Zone group ahead of Fiji and Vanuatu. 25,000 spectators packed the Lawson Tama stadium for the final game against leaders Australia on 6 September 2005. The Solomon Islands were beaten 2-1 in the second leg but the side's performance had created a sense of national pride and above all, a feeling of unity.
The second phase of the GOAL project was to erect a national football academy and Federation Headquarters at Panatina, six kilometres from downtown Honiara. The building would include administration headquarters, an education centre, dining hall, player's changing facilities, accommodation for 32 players and also for 2 coaches. One of the outstanding features within the eight-acre site was the 'state-of-the-art' laid pitch - a fully drained and irrigated international standard playing field. The new academy with facilities for womens and youth teams was inaugurated in late November 2005.
SIFF President Martin Alufurai applauded the role of FIFA saying, "Football in the Solomon Islands is indebted to FIFA for providing such generous support not only for financing Goal but also for the outstanding education programmes. The National Football Academy will follow the lead of FIFA and create educational courses for all categories of football. It will be dedicated to women's and youth football activities and competitions - it is our objective to identify and develop women and youth talented players and provide opportunities not possible before the completion of the Goal Academy".
Meanwhile Oceania Football Confederation President Mr. Reynald Temarii has highlighted the progress the Islands have witnessed as a direct result of football's involvement and the influence of the FIFA Goal Programme. Temarii explained that the country now enjoys a new enthusiasm and unity extending through the whole population.
Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza was also present at the academy's inauguration and explained how the collaboration between FIFA and the Solomon islands government was fundamental not only for the development of football in the country, but also to help the rebuilding of peace and unity on the shores of an incredible country.