He helped lead Oceania football out of a major crisis during the six months he spent as interim OFC President and now Vanuatu’s Lambert Maltock has the full support of his peers to keep the organisation on track for the next four years.

Maltock was unanimously elected OFC President during the Extraordinary Congress on Saturday 9 March, in the presence of FIFA President Gianni Infantino, with a strong showing from the 11 OFC Member Associations in support of change.

Maltock has announced four key items which he intends to focus on during his term;

  • Implement the OFC Football Development Strategy to 2026,
  • Raise the quality of football through revised Competitions,
  • Uphold the reforms and continue building on the foundations laid for good governance,
  • Complete the Home of Football project

Normally reserved and softly spoken, Maltock was animated upon his election showing the sheer passion he has for football, and the pain he’s felt seeing the game dragged into disrepute over the past 12-18 months.

“It has not been easy. Oceania, where I am from, has suffered enough,” he stated.

The news is now starting to sink in – that he is the first Ni-Vanuatu to become OFC President – and Maltock is already working on taking the Oceania Football Confederation forward into a new future.

“In the beginning it was hard, but I was happy that all of them gave me their trust and confidence to lead OFC for the next four years,” Maltock recalls.

“I trust myself and I’m now excited to work.”

In particular, Maltock is looking forward to focusing less on politics and more on football development.

“One thing I don’t like to see in OFC is concentrating too much on politics, and not enough on the development of football and competitions in the region.

“And this is one of the main issues I want to address as President. We need to redirect the whole development programme to raising the standard of competition in Oceania.”

OFC President Lambert Maltock and FIFA President Gianni Infantino. Credit: OFC via Phototek

For Maltock, the mandate is clear.

“At the time, when I came back from my initial election in Russia, the priorities were different,” he explained.

“But I still wanted to look at, if we solve the governance problems and crisis of last year, what next?”

Maltock was quick to meet with OFC Technical Director Patrick Jacquemet and Head of Education Giovani Fernandes, and was impressed with what they presented.

“They’d already planned through to 2026. I was delighted to see that, and it gave me courage that if we solve our problems, and if I happen to come back after the election, I know something is in place.”

Maltock has made the Football Development Strategy, designed by the technical staff in consultation with the competitions department, one of his top four priorities.

“What is the vision 2026? It’s doing all the things that are possible, create a pathway towards and a programme that rigorously aligns to, having two teams from Oceania at the FIFA World Cup in 2026.

“We have one-and-a-half spots, we need to win that half-spot and prove to FIFA and the rest of the world that we deserve two direct spots. We need to prove it on the field, rather than just negotiating for it.”

Maltock envisions bringing professional expertise to Member Associations in a coaching and educational capacity.

“You need a professional coach on the field and one in the development programme. They need to complement each other with the professional to develop the elite, and at the same time, a forecast-oriented coach who can build up to what you want while also building the local capacity.”

Part of achieving his goals is not just building on the development programmes in place, but also improving the competitions.

“In the past 11 years I’ve been with OFC, I’m not satisfied with the level of competitions. Why am I not satisfied? It seems to me we have invested in the wrong places,” Maltock said.

“I want to invest in all 11 countries and, using political speak here, decentralise.

“You have to re-concentrate the funding, you need proper facilities, you need funding assistance and you need the knowledge from outside,” he continued.

“We have good local coaches but they have limited knowledge, we have to invest in these people; build capacity, give them the right tools, the right equipment and right knowledge or you can’t expect the result you want.”

With FIFA set to make changes to the FIFA Club World Cup, changes to the OFC Champions League will be inevitable and Maltock is keen to get discussions underway as soon as possible.

“I want to review the OFC Champions League and look at, for example, making it a professional league. We want to create something that addresses the elite players of the region.”

One aspect in particular Maltock wants to look at immediately is the rule regarding ‘foreign’ players. As it stands currently, teams participating in the OFC Champions League are restricted to a 3+1, three players of foreign nationality plus one additional Oceania player.

Maltock believes there shouldn’t be a restriction on Oceania players.

“An example, Brian Kaltak has been with Auckland City this year but they have to drop him because they can only have three foreign players plus one from Oceania,” he explained.

“When you get to a higher level of competition your lifespan as an elite player is short and this is one year where he isn’t playing in the region’s top competition.

“We have to give players enough room, enough opportunity, to play before they start curving back down.

“But overall, we need to try and bring everyone up, we need competitive competitions and that’s what I’ve asked the competitions department to start working on it.”

Third on the list of priorities is reforms and good governance, two areas Maltock is adamant are crucial for the future of football in Oceania.

“Everything that has happened, it’s very disappointing,” he said.

“Where I come from, I started in the village, to the province, to the city – I know the situation in a Member Association. When you give your heart to football, you volunteer and you don’t get anything back but you continue to invest your time, your energy into development football. Then when you come to a point like that – you can only be disappointed.

“I expected something different.”

With the reforms already in place, the focus is continuing to uphold them while focusing on an overall model of good governance which includes transparency.

“When you look at the money we waste on these crises, it hurts you. That’s why I had to come out and say that cannot continue like that anymore. The staff here at OFC know that, you don’t have the money to boost competitions, for development, there’s no incentive for the clubs or leagues. We invest in thongs people can’t benefit from. We have to stop that.”

Maltock said he is often asked why results aren’t better.

“Why did Samoa’s club side lose 13-0? Why? Because the money isn’t being invested in the right way. But I have pledged to myself that when I leave here I want to see change.

“I don’t want to just come and sit in an office. It’s not a privilege, it’s a responsibility to change football in Oceania.”

Maltock believes the people he has alongside him on the OFC Executive Committee means that change will happen.

“We have Rajesh and Johanna on the FIFA Council, then we have Thierry (Ariiotima) from Tahiti, Steeve (Laigle) from New Caledonia and John Kapi Natto of Papua New Guinea as the OFC Vice-Presidents.

“These people have the same heart like me, I don’t want to work with people that don’t have the heart for football, that have no passion and aren’t craving to win and craving to raise the level.”

The final aspect that Maltock hopes to concentrate on during his four-year term is the OFC Home of Football development in Auckland, New Zealand.

What was originally an ambitious project has been significantly downsized following numerous issues and overspending.

“I’m happy that we have reduced the project to the size we want and the money we want to complete it,” he explained.

“We can’t just leave it like that otherwise it’s a failure for us. We’re lucky that under this administration and the leadership of Franck, that UEFA will support us to finish this, as well as continuing to support us in other areas of competition and football development too.”