Photo Credit Christophe Fotozz

The eight coaches and eight captains of the participating teams have come together for the pre-tournament Media Conference on the eve of the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship in Tahiti.

There was an acknowledgement New Zealand is the team to beat, but a determination from the Pacific Island Nations to use New Zealand as inspiration to develop their women’s football and close the gap on the Oceania Football Confederation’s benchmark nation.

OFC U-16 Women’s Championship 2023, Press Conference, FTF Headquarters Pirae, Tahiti, Tuesday 12th september 2023. Photo: Christophe Fotozz

Vanuatu coach Nesta Moli says they aspire to reach New Zealand’s standards.

“ I think preparation is one of the things that we should work on. If you want to become like New Zealand to be number one. Preparation is the most important thing.”

For Tonga coach Lafaele Moala, preparation is also key, both physically and mentally.

“We need to compete with New Zealand, physically technical, technically, and so that everyone knows what to do on and off the field. And I think that’s the most important thing is to this all comes down to preparation. If we want to be the best, we must do it every day. It’s not just two months or one month.

Solomon Islands coach Patrick Miniti admitted it is a challenge to compete with New Zealand but one they are ready to embrace.

“And it is a good challenge for all of us to take on, the challenge to try and get to the top with New Zealand as far as competition is concerned, but at the same time, it sets the platform for us to develop the players, the teams to compete in such a level so we can one day maybe beat New Zealand it’ll be good for Oceania.”

“ So it is a challenge for us other countries to take on the challenge and to lift and develop football to a level that brings Oceania to the world as well.”

New Zealand coach Leon Birnie who coached the U-19 New Zealand side to the OFC title in Fiji in July welcomed the Pacific nations determination to close the gap which will serve to inspire his team to improve further.

“Yeah, I think everyone’s touched on the more investment that goes into all the nations and all the teams, the better preparation, the better the competition, the better it is for football across Oceania. For everyone else that’ll hopefully close that gap. And for us, we need to keep working to try and improve what we’re doing to keep the gap, but I think the main thing is if we can invest in all nations to improve the programs that’s great for football,” Birnie said.

OFC U-16 Women’s Championship 2023, Press Conference, FTF Headquarters Pirae, Tahiti, Tuesday 12th september 2023. Photo: Christophe Fotozz

For Tahiti coach Xavier Samin, playing at home is a huge motivation for the side.

“We could say that it’s an honor to host this tournament here in Tahiti. The players are focused and excited to begin the competition.”

The Cook Islands will face New Zealand in Group play and coach Tupou Brogan believes it is a fantastic opportunity for her players.

“I do believe the challenge from New Zealand is good. Because without it, we won’t grow. So in this I feel it’s good for our players to know what the standard is so they can grow.”

The tournament kicks off tomorrow with Group A action featuring Tonga against the Solomon Islands at 4:00pm followed by New Caledonia against hosts Tahiti at 7:00pm (Tahiti local time).