23 Apr 2020

Sport: Fiji football coach still awaiting first match

6:12 am on 23 April 2020

The Fiji men's football coach doesn't know when his team will be back together but says health and safety is paramount during the coronavirus pandemic.

Danish national Flemming Serritslev arrived in Fiji over 12 weeks ago before agreeing to take charge of the Bula Boys on the road to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Former PNG head coach Flemming Serritslev is now in charge of the Fiji men's national team.

New Fiji men's football coach Flemming Serritslev. Photo: Screenshot/Fiji FA.

His first matches in charge were set to be as part of an international tri-series against Solomon Islands and Tahiti in March before the fixtures were postponed because of Covid-19, while it was confirmed this week that the OFC Nations Cup in June had been scrapped.

"Of course it's a pity that the Nations Cup has been cancelled but on the other hand there is nothing more important than the health of human beings so, even if it's a pity, we have to accept it and we have to be patient and wait until everything opens up again and for sure it will open up again."

Flemming Serritslev, who coached Papua New Guinea to a runners-up finish in the 2016 Nations Cup, said the regional championship was an important part of their preparation for World Cup qualifying, which is scheduled to start in September.

"It's the main showcase for...the whole region here but if it will be possible to play then I'm sure that the coming FIFA windows will be used for the World Cup qualifiers."

"But of course the Nations Cup would have been very good preparation. Now we'll see if it will be possible for us to have a couple of friendly games before we go into the World Cup qualifiers but nobody can tell if this [will happen] at the moment."

Papua New Guinea coach Flemming Serritslev.

Flemming Serritslev coached PNG to a runners-up finish in the 2016 OFC Nations Cup. Photo: OFC via Phototek

Despite an extended wait for his debut match in charge of the Bula Boys, Flemming Serritslev said the past few months have still been productive.

"We had two very good training camps in our academy and I had the possibility to watch many matches in the Premier League here in Fiji and also...to watch Lautoka play in Vanuatu in the Champions League and Ba in the Champions League in Tahiti."

"So, actually, everything started really really well but suddenly of course this virus has changed everything," he said.

With restrictions on mass gatherings still in place, Fiji's footballers are largely confined to their homes while the new national coach has been keeping busy from his apartment in Nadi.

"What I've been doing and what I'm spending my time on here it's actually to prepare courses for the Premier League coaches and Presidents here in Fiji and secondly I'm preparing a rather big youth talent development course for the youth coaches here in Fiji."

Fiji police man checkpoints into Suva

Restrictions on movement and mass gatherings remain in place in Fiji in response to Covid-19. Photo: Fiji police

The 73 year-old Serritslev has also had the chance to speak with Fijian football's golden boy and national captain Roy Krishna, who arrived back home after captaining ATK to the Indian Super League title.

"He has had a brilliant season in India. He's a top player and he's a very good person in terms of showing actually how you have to behave in this very difficult situation. He's really a person that other people here in Fiji should look up to due to his behaviour, due to his way of being."

Krishna is keen to lead Fiji into World Cup qualifying and add to his tally of 29 international goals, Serritslev said.

The only question for the coach and his team is when that will be.