Emma Evans addresses the FIFA Knowledge Exchange Workshop | Photo: Dave Lintott / www.phototek.nz

The latest FIFA Knowledge Exchange workshop has taken place, between 23-28 July.

Held in Wellington, New Zealand, to coincide with the country co-hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, the workshop brought together the Technical Director and Director of High Performance (or the person responsible for national youth teams) from across the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), along with their respective General Secretaries.

Representatives from the OFC, as well as FIFA’s Regional Development Office for Oceania were also in attendance. The workshop had been constructed to discuss the unique characteristics of the region, where travel between islands, let alone nations, presents unique challenges.

The workshop took place within walking distance from the Wellington Regional Stadium – which is hosting nine matches during the World Cup, so the participants got to blend the theoretical sessions with a real-world view of how participating teams are staffed and prepare for games.

“I think we can make Oceania more competitive,” said April Heinrichs, FIFA High Performance Specialist.

“I think we can have an OFC country, including New Zealand, that qualifies for the FIFA U-17 World Cup more consistently. I believe that you can win a U-17 or U-20 World Cup and not just qualify for it. I know that’s a big statement. But I have already seen the progress of many smaller countries in women’s football around the world.”

One of the key themes that emerged during the week was the need to identify a vision and/or a philosophy for each member association (MA).

OFC Clubs and Leagues Officer Steven Dillon, Women’s Football Manager Emma Evans and Head of Football Development Paul Toohey were in attendance, as well as Sean Douglas – E-Learning Development Manager, Dave Wright – High Performance Consultant, Tracy Cunnington – Education and High Performance Administrator.

“FIFA, OFC and our Member Associations all have an important role to play in the success of these programs,” said Dillon.

“It was great to have representatives together this past week to discuss how to ensure that the FIFA TDS is implemented across our region. It was fantastic for OFC to witness the level of support provided by the team at FIFA as well as the enthusiasm from our Member Associations to ensure that this experience will benefit their stakeholders on and off the field.”

“Some people call it DNA,” said Heinrichs.

“But I also want to focus on the planning process. We are developing people. This takes time. Your youth national teams are your pipeline…your rehearsal. If you can compete in a U-17 World Cup, those players move on to the U-20 World Cup and you’re more likely to have success at the U-20 World Cup. If you can keep some of the core of those players together for the movement up to the senior team, your senior team will have more success too.”

The main objective of FIFA’s Talent Development Scheme (TDS) is to help raise the standards of men’s and women’s national-team football.

Each member association whose participation in the TDS operational lifecycle is approved will receive an annual contribution of USD 50,000 to cover associated operational costs. In addition, participating member associations may submit an application for funding under one or more of the annual bespoke FIFA talent programmes to support specific projects related to their strategic long-term development plan. The setting up of an academy or centre of excellence, being one such example.

In order to progress such projects, it is therefore imperative that technical experts and the leadership of MAs are aligned in their planning.