Solomon Islands captain Ileen Pegi set a milestone for her country when she joined New Caledonia champions and inaugural Women’s Champions League winners AS Academy Féminine earlier this month.

Despite being in her early 30s, when most footballers are considering the end of their career, the forward is kickstarting hers as the first Solomon Islands women’s national team player to score an international transfer. 

But if she has her way, she won’t be the last. 

“It’s always been my passion and dream to play abroad. I’m humbled and I’m happy and I’m just proud to represent all the girls and women in Solomon Islands,” she told OFC from Noumea.

“I hope this transfer inspires other Solomon Islands players to follow their dreams. If I can do this in my 30s, I believe the younger generation can also follow my footsteps, go beyond where I am today and do greater things too.”

Ileen Pegi achieved a dream becoming the first female Solomon Islands player to score an international transfer. Photo credit: Supplied

The women’s game is making considerable strides in Solomon Islands this year, with the national team making the finals of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament – Oceania Qualifier for the first time in February. Off the back of that tournament, Solomon Islands were the biggest movers in the March update to the FIFA Women’s World Rankings, hitting an all-time high of 88th in the world, jumping 21 places up the rankings.

With Pegi at the heart of her team’s success, scoring a semi-final hat trick to secure a place in the final at Fiji’s expense, it’s no surprise she caught the eye of AS Academy Féminine’s head coach Coralie Bretegnier.

She was approached by Bretegnier before the recent OFC Women’s Champions League in Solomon Islands, but there wasn’t time for the transfer to get through, so they had to settle for Pegi joining AS Academy for this year’s New Caledonia National Championship.

“I think I’m going to learn a lot from AS Academy and it’s an opportunity for me to excel in my career and play at the next level of my football. I think I’m going to achieve a lot with AS Academy,” Pegi said.

“The other part of me joining AS Academy is that the club is all female and empowers all women and girls in football.”

Ileen Pegi was scouted by AS Academy during Olympic qualifiers earlier this year. Photo: Shane Wenzlick /

The move to Noumea brings Pegi full circle, with the only previous time she visited New Caledonia being back in 2011 to represent Solomon Islands in the Pacific Games – right at the start of her international career. 

She hopes it will be a springboard to the next stage in her career, and possibly set her up to play even further afield, such as Europe. 

It’s much harder, she notes, for players in the Solomon Islands to secure an overseas opportunity compared with players from Aotearoa New Zealand or Australia. 

Ahead of making her official debut for her new club, she hopes her move will be an example and inspiration for her Solomon Island teammates and footballers of the future, urging them to dream beyond the shores of their home country to reach their potential.

“There’s so much potential and talented young girls and women playing football in Solomon Islands,” she reflected. 

“Now we have the Academy for boys and girls playing football, and that’s a start. So I have great hope for the future of women’s football in Solomon Islands.”