Fiji’s preparations for the OFC U-16 Championship will take them to China this month after the side confirmed their participation in the 4th China (Shanghai) International Youth Football Invitational.
Launched in 2015, the annual tournament aims to promote youth football education by providing an international platform for young students to exchange football techniques.
The side has spent the past three months in camp preparing for the OFC U-16 Championship which will be held in Solomon Islands in September.
Coach Yogendra Dutt said the tournament in China is another element to the build-up for the Championship, and it was tough to choose the final travelling squad.
“It was definitely a hard task but we had a criteria which we followed that gave us some idea as to who all could make it to the China tour,” Dutt said.
“The preparations phase was positive, but at times we had hiccups with problems like injuries. But overall preparations have gone as per the plans.”
Although the team has been named for China, Dutt was adamant this does not mean the team for the FIFA U-17 World Cup qualifier has been decided.
“We made them feel comfortable here through our recreational programmes and they were sent home after seven weeks to spend time with their families.
“The five players who could not make it to this squad still have a chance to make it to the tournament as the squad for the OFC U-16 Championship still hasn’t been finalised.”
The invitation to take part in the China (Shanghai) International Youth Football Invitational was extended to Fiji FA CEO Mohammed Yusef by Poseidon Finance and Fast Jet Rentals vice-president Petrol Zhang.
“The tournament has been held annually in Shanghai for four years and this is the first time a Fijian team will be attending,” Zhang said.
“Not only do we at Poseidon and Fast Jet see this as a sign of the ever-deepening relationship between Fiji and China, moreover, it is an opportunity for Fijian teenagers to see the world, and the world to see them.”
Zhang said the suggestion to invite the Fiji national team was pitched to tournament organisers by the companies CEO Edia Guo.
“Our young athletes will be competing with more than 400 16 to 17-year-old players from all over the world,” she explained.
“They will be facing teams with home advantages like China, but also European and Asian teams from countries who love football like a religion. We are both thrilled and anxious and we with them the best of luck.”
Yusef said it was a delight to partner with the Posiedon Finance and Fast Jet Rentals to ensure the preparations of the U-16 team included exposure to international football.
“We were fortunate to get the invitation from the China (Shanghai) International Youth Football Invitational organising committee. This tournament will enter its fourth year and and some of the great countries like Morocco and Ghana have taken part in it previously,” Yusef said.
The OFC U-16 Championship will take place in Solomon Islands from 9-22 September.
Fiji U-16 Travelling Squad
Jason Rokovucake, Emosi Betu, Suliano Doli, Thomas Dunn, Clarence Hussain, Mohammed Ishrat, Eshan Kumar, Mohammed Nabeel, Kunaal Nand, Rahul Naresh, Rohan Nath, Joji Nawaqaliva, Raj Pillay, Abhishek Prasad, Josaia Sela, Isikeli Sevanaia, Peceli Sukabula, Sikeli Tovilo, Aminio Tuilevu, Inoke Turagalailai
Yogendra Dutt, Sunil Kumar, Shalen Lal, Xavier Henneuse, Yogeshwar Singh