Football has faced a number of challenges in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

As the Pacific community looks ahead to 2021, OFC Media asked OFC General Secretary Franck Castillo for his thoughts on this year and what lies ahead.

In what has been a challenging year for football organisations across the world, what have you been most proud of regarding OFC’s performance?

The continued efforts of OFC and our Member Associations to ensure the development of football moved forward despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the many restrictions imposed as a result.

It is amazing to see the resilience and spirit in Oceania on top of our football community’s willingness to ensure our game continues to grow.

Aside from the qualifying and group stages of the OFC Champions League, all OFC competitions were either postponed or cancelled this year, but we did not let that stop us in developing football through online courses and workshops.

The team put their best foot forward and I am very proud.

What are some of your highlights from 2020?

Reshaping OFC’s support to the Member Associations is one of the highlights for 2020; I believe we will come out stronger and more united through this pandemic.

We have adapted our strategic framework and introduced new key strategies for Social Responsibility, and Commercial and Communications at OFC.

We also reshaped the OFC Development Grant into the OFC Development Programme, which focuses on supporting Member Associations in developing their strategy and operational plans and providing tailor-made expertise, capacity building programmes, and funding in line with Member Association strategies and OFC’s overall strategic framework.

This updated programme will enhance OFC Member Association development by linking OFC’s expertise, capacity building programmes, and funding with our strategic focus on governance, management, football, and national teams development.

Our Football division conducted more than 300 online workshops with the Technical teams in our Member Associations, which is an outstanding achievement.

Finally, it was great to receive the resource consent for the Home of Football project in Auckland.

Construction has begun and we look forward to moving into the new building in the future.

How important is the growing emphasis OFC is placing on women’s football development?

The increased focus OFC is placing on women’s football development is extremely important and is crucial to OFC achieving the goals laid out in our long-term strategy.

We want to leave a legacy and have competitive Member Associations at OFC and FIFA competitions.

It will also assist the OFC region and its Member Associations in creating a more equal, accessible, and inclusive footballing environment for all.

With the added motivation of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 being hosted within our Confederation, OFC’s increased investment in women’s football and commitment to developing a women’s football strategy and system-wide legacy, will not only aid in the development of football, but will also use football to drive social change, advance gender equality, and create more opportunities for girls and women in football across the Pacific.

We are committed to seeing two teams from OFC qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2027, which is why we are aiming to launch a new strategy for women’s football early next year.

What is your message to the Pacific football community for 2021?

Let us continue to be resilient, empowered and focused on the growth of our football, our people, our communities, and our culture throughout the Pacific.

We, as one Pacific football community, are still undergoing difficult and uncertain times, but we must stay positive and look forward to 2021 to continue to support each other and work towards recommencing football competitions and development workshops across the region.

I wish the entire Pacific community a Merry Christmas and a prosperous year ahead as we continue on our journey to achieve our long-term goals for 2026 and 2027 of qualifying two teams for the men’s and women’s FIFA World Cups.

Stay safe and happy holidays.