Two Solomon Islands football internationals have been invited to trial at a professional club in Europe.
Henderson Eels winger Joses Nawo and Laugu United FC striker Atkin Kaua are now in a race against time to raise enough funds to take up the opportunity with Tarxien Rainbows FC, who are currently winless and bottom of the Maltese Premier League.
The trials were arranged with the help of the Netherlands Oceania Support Foundation, which was founded in 2011 with the aim of helping to develop football in the Pacific.
The Foundation's President, Paul Driessen, said he travelled to Malta last month and had a range of "frutiful" meetings with a range of clubs in the Maltese Premier League and First Division.
"We got a very good feeling with Maltese Premier clubs. Tarxien Rainbows FC, a professional club of this top tier, is very interested. " he said. "We showed them the profiles of several players and Joses Nawo and Atkin Kaua were selected."
31-year-old Nawo and 23-year-old Kaua were first identified following a training camp held in the Netherlands in May as part of the Solomon Islands' preparation for the Pacific Games.
"Our idea was to not only to prepare the team for the Pacific Games, but as well another objective for us in the foundation was to gain a lot of media attention so that people know that Solomon Islands has a lot of talent," Driessen explained.
'Atkin was assessed by the Dutch coaches during the 2019 Pacific Games campaign as the player with the highest potential, career wise. He is still at an age where he can develop himself to a higher level while Joses Nawo is seen as the most complete player of the national team."
Driessen said Malta is an ideal location for Pacific Islands players looking to break into top-level football because it does not have the same restictions on foreign players as other European leagues.
"Malta does not have all these requirements. It's the perfect hub for those who want to make it to Europe," he said. "The professional league is of a very high standard. The top five clubs of the 14 clubs that make the Maltese Premier league, they are comparable to a Dutch top league level."
"It will be very tough, but Malta is a good start," he said.
If the trials prove successful, Tarxien Rainbows will be investing in their future, providing more experienced players while lifting competition standards within the premier league, and the opportunity for international transfers could also be an option.
"If you look at the profile of Joses Nawo, he is a very experienced player. One of the most complete players of the international football team of the Solomon Islands. He can really be of straight value within the team," Driessen said.
"It's straight re-inforcement, an investment in future you could say, take a young player, Atkin is a bit younger, so he could be holding a transfer value for example but at the same time to increase the level of the club."
"It is a brilliant opportunity. They are opening the gate for more Pacific Islanders going to Europe. Now, if they make it, they will survive the trial, they get a contract and then everyone in Malta knows about the Solomon Islands and they truly open the gate for more talent to be provided."
Tarxien Rainbows FC will provide accommodation and meals for the players, who are expected to spend 14 days on trial, but Driessen said Nawo and Kaua have less than week to find sponsors willing to cover the cost of their flights to Malta, or else they may not be able to take up the opportunity.
"As a foundation we have done our part so it is now up to a sponsor in Solomon Islands in getting him funded. A delayed arrival is not possible because the Maltese Premier League kicks off for the second half of the season at the 10th of January. Tarxien Rainbows FC needs time to examine Joses Nawo so he has to earn this contract with a successful trial."