Growing up in Tonga Penateti Feke wasn’t involved in any grassroots programme or structured club system, but as Tonga Football Association Head of Competitions she understands how important both are to football development.
Feke is in Auckland, New Zealand attending the inaugural FIFA/OFC Club Licensing Seminar where introductions to the structures and processes of club licensing is giving her an excellent insight into the system being implemented across the globe.
“We’re only halfway through the two-day seminar and already it’s been useful as they’ve covered the FIFA Professional Football department and slowly working our way to OFC and Member Association level,” Feke said.
“It helps us understand how club licensing is a development tool for football as a whole.”
Feke, captain of the Tonga women’s national team, said her personal experiences have helped with her own understanding of how important structure and governance within clubs can be, to ensure high potential players can develop into professionals.
“I didn’t go through any grassroots programmes. It was very hard to learn the game because the learning was done just through loving the game,” she explained.
“There also wasn’t that many players back when I started and making the national team was difficult, but not compared to now.
“Now there’s more grassroots programmes, FIFA development programmes for the players and there’s so many players coming in. They’ll have an even better understanding of the game when club licensing is implemented in Tonga.
“There will be better facilities to train in, people to look after them and they’ll have a better chance of playing professional football.”
Feke believes club licensing will have wide-ranging benefits for football across Tonga.
“Looking 10 to 15 years into the future, implementing club licensing and having good facilities and better structured clubs, our FIFA ranking will climb and hopefully, we will have a Roy Krishna from Tonga,” she said.
“I also believe we will be able to follow up players in their clubs and give them more quality exposure to the game.”
The FIFA/OFC Club Licensing Seminar is being held 22-23 September in Auckland, New Zealand with representatives from FIFA, OFC, each OFC Member Association and club experts from other confederations.
For more on Tonga football go to www.tongafootball.to