Fiji’s top youth footballers will now have more opportunities to compete regularly, with the launch of the 2023 McDonald’s Talent Development League last week.

The initiative is part of the Fiji Football Association’s (FFA) five-year strategic plan focusing on youth development which was piloted last year and is part of a bid to raise footballing standards in the country. The event was attended by Fiji football legend Roy Krishna.

Fiji was one of only eight countries chosen by the FIFA Talent Development Scheme to pilot the project due to its sound development strategy and plans for youth development. The league will run for 20 weeks, featuring the nation’s top youth teams across four age groups from U9 through to U15.

FFA Technical Director Timo Jankowski, who has been at the helm of this project said that the league is a great project for FFA as it will focus on talent identification and development. As a result, it will establish the base to nurture and build a stronger squad for the national team in the coming years.

Timo Jankowski and Phil Parker
CREDIT: Kirk Corrie

“The vision of the FFA technical department is to create opportunities and a pathway for the amazing natural movement of talent in Fiji. We hope that players fall in love with the game and express their talent through football.

“Our mission is to build an evidence-based football development programme for Fiji. For the first time, Fiji FA has a complete Player Development Pyramid from U9 up to U19 and senior football.”

The league will see about 2500 new registered young footballers who would be part of this league with 160 teams from 11 districts participating from around the country.

OFC OFC Player Development Officer Phil Parker, who attended the entire event in Fiji, said that the purpose of the league is “to identify talented players who can go on and play for the national side.”

“It’s the first time we’ve seen this type of scale in Fiji,” said Parker.

“It’s really good to see the commitment because it clearly signals a long term view and underpins a really technical focus. The children are performing the right actions at the right time in their stages of development. It should set them up nicely to go into national development camps, so local coaches don’t need to worry about competencies.”

“The slogan ‘Every Talent deserves a chance!’ is something we live by because you never know who could be the next rising star for Fiji,” said Jankowski.

“These players will already kick off their career development and grow from there. Historically successful women’s footballing nations have had national team players play for at least 15 years alongside boys who are also successful in the sport so the McDonalds Youth League will be played in a mixed format from U9 to U15.”

There would be over 500 new female players participating which is a positive boost to women’s football which has also seen a rise in recent years.

The League also aims to develop the footballers’ abilities to play a fast, modern structured game with many individual qualities.

“All teams, coaches, and players will work in alignment with the Fiji FA Football Development Curriculum ‘Totolo Futupolo’ with the long-term goal of bringing football development in Fiji to new heights,” said Jankowski.

“It’s about finding those kids who want to play for Fiji, and how we can help fulfil that dream,” said Parker.

“From an OFC point of view, it shows that there is really good collaboration between departments. It all aligns back to the Totolo Futupolo curriculum and how we’re all contributing to that.”