11 May 2019

Sport: Solomon Islands footballers cry 'tears of joy' over World Cup reprieve

9:48 am on 11 May 2019

Members of the Solomon Islands Under 17 men's football team cried "tears of joy" when they found out their World Cup dream was alive once again.

An appeal by the Solomon Islands Football Federation against sanctions for fielding an over-age player in qualifying was upheld by Oceania Football last week, paving the way for the team to attend the Under 17 World Cup in Brazil in September.

Head coach Stanley Waita says the whole team was overcome with excitement when they found out the good news before their final match at the UEFA International development tournament in Minsk.

"It was early in the morning in Belarus when we heard that news and the boys were all crazy. They went crazy in the morning and didn't know what to say because we thought that we were not going to the World Cup but the feelings of all the boys were they were emotionally expressing how they feel," Stanley Waita said.

Some were in tears of joy so you can feel how those players feel - they were excited and full (of) emotion."

Solomon Islands U17s in Europe.

Solomon Islands U17s in Europe. Photo: Facebook/Solomon Islands Football Federation

Solomon Islands finished runners up at the UEFA tournament: coming from behind to beat Moldova in their opening match and losing to Belarus and Kazakstan on penalties, after both matches had finished all-square after 90 minutes.

Stanley Waita says his players held their own against some of the best young players in Europe.

"I did not expect them to perform that far but they show some character, they show a lot of energy," Stanley Waita said.

"And going to Europe to play in the tournament we don't know what the level or how did the other countries in Europe play. We just go there without knowing anything and we just perform with our heart."

However Stanley Waita said the players still have a lot to learn and need to improve their discipline, after ending their final match against Kazakhstan with only nine players on the pitch, after Raphael Lea'i and Philip Ropa were sent off.

He said the team was approached by people who were interested in signing some of the Solomon Islands players but they advised them to go through the correct channels through the national federation.