(Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek FIFA President Gianni Infantino with OFC President Lambert Maltock)
The OFC 29th Ordinary Congress was held at the Viaduct Events Centre in Auckland, on the eve of the FIFA Women’s World Cup kicking off at Eden Park tomorrow.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino addressed delegates calling the OFC member nations his “dream team”.
Infantino had glowing praise for the transformational change OFC has undergone in recent years.
“I am happy and proud to be standing in front of you at the Congress, because OFC has come a long way, into modernity and we work together to make sure in future football will prosper even more in your countries,” Infantino said.
“The energy of Oceania makes me happy and very proud. We are on the eve of the opening of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the greatest women’s World Cup ever. For the first time in the Southern Hemisphere, for the first time 32 countries, 64 games, 2 billion people watching in over 200 countries.” Infantino added.
He vowed to take time to visit all 11 OFC Member Associations over the next month of the tournament and had a message to Pacific communities about the legacy the tournament would leave.
“The World Cup being played here, connecting it with the grassroots of the game being played in your countries, is exactly the link we need to take on board and foster to make it prosper,” Infantino said.
He expressed FIFA’s continued commitment to helping to continue developing football in the Oceania region with the FIFA Forward programme managing the development aspects (with more investment than ever before) and the (new) FIFA Talent Development Scheme, which is helping with players, coaches and academies, is now coming on stream as well.
“It’s making an impact. We will continue with the development programmes and full-time coaches will be sent to your countries to develop academies. So we are continuing to cooperate and work together,”
OFC President Lambert Maltock, who was re-elected for a second four-year term at the OFC Extra Ordinary Congress in Kigali in March, spoke of the dramatic transformation OFC has undergone since 2018, becoming ‘a professional organisation that has embraced the good governance principle.’
Maltock highlighted the return to extensive OFC competitions following the Covid pandemic and lauded the success of the OFC Champions League in Vanuatu and the inaugural OFC Women’s Champions League held in Papua New Guinea.
“As a result of a successful Premier Men’s Competition, we have engaged over 183,000 fans with a 9.1 million fan reach and an engagement rate of 22 percent – which is above the industry standard of six percent.” Maltock said.
The OFC President expressed his excitement over working with FIFA to establish OFC’s first professional league in 2025.
“This professional league will revolutionise football in the Pacific and change forever the football landscape. And yes, we are still committed to qualifying two teams at the FIFA World Cups in 2026 and 2027. We want to see more players joining professional clubs in Australia and in other parts of the world.”
Maltock reiterated his three priorities for his term which align with OFC’s strategy to meet our Confederation wide goal of qualifying two teams for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and 2027.
These are Development and Education, High Performance and looking to good governance principles.
“OFC Member Associations will be prioritised to improve and professionalise their respective management and administration and to raise their standard of performance while the launch of the OFC Professional League by 2025 will revolutionise the game in Oceania.” Maltock said.