2 Aug 2023

FIFA official says a Pacific team can lift a football world cup

11:56 am on 2 August 2023
Solomon Islands beat the Cook Islands 2-0 in the opening match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Oceania Qualifers.

Solomon Islands playing the Cook Islands at the 2022 FIFA World Cup Oceania Qualifiers Photo: OFC Media

A FIFA high performance specialist says that not only can football in Oceania become more competitive, but a national team from the Pacific can win an age group world cup.

April Heinrichs told FIFA's Knowledge Exchange workshop held in New Zealand that there is potential in the Pacific.

"I think we can have an OFC country, including New Zealand, that qualifies for the FIFA U-17 World Cup more consistently," the former United States international said.

"I believe that you can win a U-17 or U-20 World Cup and not just qualify for it. I know that's a big statement. But I have already seen the progress of many smaller countries in women's football around the world."

"We are developing people. This takes time. Your youth national teams are your pipeline…your rehearsal.

"If you can compete in a U-17 world cup, those players move on to the U-20 world cup and you're more likely to have success at the U-20 world cup.

"If you can keep some of the core of those players together for the movement up to the senior team, your senior team will have more success too."

Held in Wellington, to coincide with the country co-hosting the FIFA Women's World Cup, the workshop brought together senior officials from the various Oceania Football Confederation member nations as well as representatives from FIFA's Regional Development Office for Oceania.

The workshop had been constructed to discuss the unique characteristics of the region.

One of the key themes that emerged during the week was the need to identify a vision and/or a philosophy for each member association.

"FIFA, OFC and our member associations all have an important role to play in the success of these programmes," said OFC Clubs and Leagues officer Steven Dillon.

"It was great to have representatives together this past week to discuss how to ensure that the FIFA TDS (Talent Development Scheme) is implemented across our region.

"It was fantastic for OFC to witness the level of support provided by the team at FIFA as well as the enthusiasm from our member associations to ensure that this experience will benefit their stakeholders on and off the field."

The main objective of FIFA's Talent Development Scheme is to help raise the standards of men's and women's national-team football.

Each member association whose participation in the TDS operational lifecycle is approved will receive an annual contribution of $US50,000 to cover associated operational costs.

The workshop was held as FIFA President Gianni Infantino visited several Pacific nations.

- OFC Media

Emma Evans addresses the FIFA Knowledge Exchange Workshop in Wellington

Emma Evans addresses the FIFA Knowledge Exchange Workshop in Wellington Photo: Dave Lintott / www.phototek.nz

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