A combined effort involving the Oceania Football Confederation and three other leading football organisations has seen a new-look Grassroots Football Festival piloted at the Kaikohe AFC in New Zealand’s far north.

Last weekend the OFC, alongside Māori Football Aotearoa (MFA), New Zealand Football (NZF), Northern Region Football (NRF) and Kaikohe AFC delivered the festival, with whānau coming together for a day of football and fun.

Part of the OFC’s Football Development strategic plan, the co-designed festival will be used to help develop a blueprint for Member Associations and communities to follow.

OFC Football Development Officer Phill Parker said the Kaikohe trip was tailored to suit local people.

“One of the key benefits of co-designing is that the community is at the forefront and guiding the whole process, which means it’s by the community for the community, with us providing support,” Parker said.

“The difference between a co-designed festival and OFC’s Grassroots Football Festival standard guidelines is that all organisations started together with blank papers and conceptualised it through ongoing discussions before its delivery.

“The OFC Grassroots Football Festival guidelines, which incorporate social messaging through OFC Just Play such as Health and Wash, are already on offer, but the co-designed format enables us to take the programme further.”

As part of the weekend, a traditional Māori grounding ceremony took place the day before at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds for all to absorb the heritage and history of the location.

Traditional Māori grounding ceremony at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Photo Credit: OFC Media.

NZF General Manager of Women’s World Cup Legacy and Inclusion Paula Hansen accepted a taonga (gift) from MFA, on behalf of her organisation, at the ceremony.

“It was moving and because my son plays for an MFA team, I have the privilege of seeing the impact the organisation has on our kids,” Hansen said.

“It was a humbling experience, especially because it’s the first time we all worked together, it was an important experience to have. To also be recognised by MFA for our enduring relationship was special and a good way to start the festivities.”

MFA Board Member Daniel Cassidy was also in attendance.

“Our role is to support the local clubs and develop their players, so this was really about establishing football as a pathway forward in player development,” Cassidy said.

Meanwhile, Kaikohe AFC President Sean White was impressed by the outcome of the festival.

“The amount of people who turned up, the happy faces and the feedback I received from the kids speaks volumes for how it went,” White said.

“Supported by the football organisations, we were able to create a platform for the community to enjoy and together I think we can make some big waves going forward.”