OFC’s Futsal Coach Educator Juliano Schmeling has continued to lead Fijian futsal coaches in their development, despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Borders may be closed or restricted in countries throughout the Pacific, but Schmeling has used online learning through video conferences with great success recently.

Nine coaches in Fiji are working towards their OFC Futsal C Licence, and Schmeling has split them into two groups.

“They have been very receptive, and I can see they are enjoying it. They are learning from home with the possibility of finishing their C Licence so they recognise that and I am happy for them,” Schmeling said.

“I think the coaches I interact with from Fiji are very enthusiastic and have the desire to learn. One other positive thing from Fiji is they have already hosted many futsal tournaments for OFC, so they have seen the highest level of futsal in Oceania many times and I think it motivates them.”

Schmeling’s experience in futsal is extensive having worked with the New Caledonian and Solomon Islands national teams – he has also had stints involved with the game in Australia, China and New Zealand.

He said conducting online workshops would continue to be a valuable tool as a way to develop coaches as the world continues to find new ways to adapt.

“I am pretty sure this is the way to go forward, not just in the short term but for the future. I understand that it is very important when the instructor flies to the countries in Oceania, but these online meetings can be very helpful for all our coaches in the OFC region.”

Mira Sahib, the Development Officer for futsal in Fiji, said their coaches were keen to be involved in this style of learning.

“The response is really good from the coaches in Fiji. The use of technology has made work easier because it allows everyone to connect from anywhere whether it’s from the comfort of their homes, the office and even having coffee at the coffee shop. I believe this is a big step from OFC to making learning easier,” Sahib said.

Fiji’s regional futsal leagues kicked off this week and the best performing sides will eventually advance to the Inter-District Championship.

Futsal is a popular game in Fiji and is a key development tool for footballers throughout the country; Fiji finished fifth at the OFC Futsal Nations Cup last year.

Sahib said having coaches with formal qualifications would be a boost for futsal in Fiji.

“It will bring more quality, more flavour in the game. Now it is not only for community level futsal where we come for only recreational purposes, but we are actually going to have a proper competitive environment for futsal.

“This is what we need in Fiji and the pathways for futsal coaches is clearly set by OFC.”

Paul Toohey, OFC’s Acting Head of Football Development, said the success of online learning with Fiji’s futsal coaches meant the project could be rolled out in other Member Associations in Oceania in the coming months.