A number of leagues across Oceania are set to resume in the coming weeks as football activities ramp up in our Member Associations.
In Fiji, the Vodafone Premier League will recommence with defending champions Ba FC hosting Navua FC on Saturday, July 11, at the Fiji Football Academy Ground in Ba.
Due to their OFC Champions League commitments Ba have played only one match this season, defeating Rewa FC in the competition’s opening round.
Meanwhile, Navua are sitting at the bottom of the table with three defeats and a draw from their previous four matches.
Ba FC are scheduled to play another match next Wednesday against Lautoka FC to help the Men in Black catch up with the rest of the competition before the league resumes with its full programme on July 18.
Fiji FA President Rajesh Patel couldn’t hide his excitement about this weekend’s restart.
“It’s a great feeling, football is what we all love and people love and people have been waiting for and we have been waiting as an association to get it once again going,” he said.
“There are so many people who have been deprived of it, but it wasn’t in our hands or in the government’s hands, it was the work of COVID-19 holding so many people back, of course health comes before anything else, but finally getting back into football is something youngsters and older people, all fans alike, are excited about.
“With some of the restrictions still in place, including restrictions on the number of spectators in the stadiums, it will be challenging for some of the fans with all the demands so it will take time to get back to normal, but we have to make sure that we do cater for everyone and that’s the reason why we decided to sign with [Fijian Broadcasting Corporation] to broadcast one Vodafone Premier League match live every week.”
Elsewhere, New Caledonia’s Mobil Super Ligue is also set to return this weekend following a four-month hiatus enforced by the coronavirus pandemic.
Four games are scheduled to kick off Round 2 of the competition that was suspended on March 14.
In Saturday’s double header at Noumea’s Stade Numa-Daly Magenta, AS Kunie and AS Lossi will get proceedings underway before the highly anticipated clash between championship favourites, AS Tiga Sport and AS Magenta.
Defending champions Hienghène Sport will host AS Mont-Dore in Sunday’s opening match in the country’s Northern Province before the action returns to Noumea where AS Wetr face SC Ne Drehu.
Federation Caledonienne de Football President Steeve Laigle was excited about the upcoming action.
“We hope to witness a fantastic show this weekend with some great matches, including Hienghène’s game against Mont Dore in Hienghène and Tiga’s clash against Magenta in Noumea,” he said.
“We also want to thank the New Caledonian public who respected the measures taken by the Government during this COVID-19 crisis, which now allows us to be able to practice football again.”
AS Tiga’s new coach Pierre Wajoka said his side couldn’t wait to take the field against Magenta.
“We are impatient to start again in the championship because it’s difficult to train and keep motivated without playing matches. We missed the competition. We also noticed the growing excitement and anticipation by fans. As soon as the date for the resumption of the championship was announced by the federation people started to come and watch the club’s training sessions.”
Meanwhile, in the Solomon Islands preparations are well underway for the launch of a new women’s national league which is due to kickoff in the middle of August.
More than 100 women and girls turned up to Honiara’s Lawson Tama Stadium for the women’s pre-season competition which runs from July 7-11.
All 12 participating clubs will play multiple games on each matchday using a 7-a-side and two 10-minute halves format leading up to Saturday’s quarter-finals, semis and title decider.
This week’s festival of football has provided the perfect opportunity for players to clock up much needed game time before the start of next month’s women’s national league as well as a chance to promote the game and grow participation.
Solomon Islands Football Federation President William Lai was confident the increased activities would signal a new era for women’s football in the country.
“Women’s football has encountered many challenges over the years but this competition has shown that we can grow our women’s game to a higher level. It is encouraging to see players from various racial backgrounds showing interest and passion for football,” he said.
“We are optimistic to start a top league for women in the country which will follow the same pathway of the Telekom S-League as the country’s premier club competition for women.”
Although there are no football activities in Papua New Guinea currently, preparations are well advanced ahead of the start of the new national league next month.
The Tonga Football Association’s Executive Committee recently confirmed that football activities will resume in Tonga in September.
In American Samoa, men’s club sides have begun training and their national league is scheduled to begin in August. Their summer youth league was cancelled.
Samoa will host the Soccer Sisters Festival in Savai’i on July 11, which is an initiative that began in 2012 as a way to encourage participation in football from women and children.
The festivals are made up of skills sessions, workshops and small games with a focus on player development and promoting enjoyment.
OFC’s Just Play programme will run workshops that focus on good hygiene practices, gender equality and social inclusion.
Youth leagues in Samoa have also been running for the past few weeks.
In New Zealand, the community game is in full swing with senior club, school and youth football being played throughout the country after resuming last month.
In Vanuatu, regional men’s knockout competitions have begun, as well as the VFF Women’s Independence Cup. Youth leagues are scheduled to start next month.
In Tahiti, they have held trainings for the national men’s team and trials for representative youth teams. The Groupe OPT Beach Soccer Tour 2020 competition got underway this month.
The Tahiti Ligue 1 will begin its new season in September.