Football Federation Samoa have recruited high-calibre candidates to coach their senior national teams.
Former Wellington Phoenix standout Paul Ifill will coach the women’s squad, while ex-Team Wellington boss Matt Calcott will steward the men’s side.
Ifill is well-known in New Zealand football circles through his exploits with the Phoenix in the A-League where he made more than 100 appearances for the franchise from 2009-2014 following a lengthy professional career in England.
A ruptured Achilles cut his time with the Phoenix short, but he went on to represent Team Wellington, Hawke’s Bay United and Tasman United in New Zealand’s national league before retiring from top-flight football in 2019.
Since finishing with the Phoenix the 41-year-old has dedicated more time to coaching and runs the Paul Ifill Football Academy as well as working with up-and-coming players on an individual basis. He also coaches the Wairarapa United FC women’s team.
Calcott is a familiar name for football followers in Oceania having coached Team Wellington from 2011-2016.
He took them to the final of New Zealand’s national league three times and captured the title in the 2015-2016 season via a thrilling 4-2 win over heavyweights Auckland City FC in the decider.
Team Wellington’s domestic success also saw Calcott guide his squad through numerous OFC Champions League campaigns, yielding runners-up medals in 2015 and 2016.
Both are familiar with new Football Federation Samoa Technical Director Jess Ibrom who said Ifill’s recruitment was an important step in helping them grow the women’s game.
“I’ve known of Paul since I was Head of Academy at the Wellington Phoenix and I’ve been fortunate to see closely what Paul has given to the game in New Zealand not just as a professional footballer but also as a coach with the Wairarapa women’s team and his own private academy,” Ibrom said.
“There’s a huge amount of potential in the women’s game in Samoa and the game is growing at a rapid rate as we gear towards the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023. Paul deserves this opportunity and I know he’s very keen to get going as soon as possible.”
Calcott is the Director of Football for North Wellington AFC and Ibrom said Calcott would bring a strong knowledge of Pacific football to the position.
“Matt has been one of the most successful coaches in the Oceania region in recent years. He successfully made Team Wellington into one of the top two teams in New Zealand competing with Auckland City at the national and OFC Champions League level on a regular basis,” Ibrom said.
“He knows what it takes to be competitive at the international level as well having experienced a number of OFC Champions League campaigns, which will be invaluable to us. We are building the credibility of all the national teams and by bringing in experienced senior coaches such as Matt will only enhance this strategy for us.”
Both Ifill and Calcott will work remotely from New Zealand while continuing in their current roles and Football Federation Samoa have recently launched a new strategy to scout players that are eligible to represent Samoa.
Ifill and Calcott are hoping to run training camps for New Zealand-based Samoan players this year and will explore what travel options are available once border restrictions ease throughout the Pacific.
The Samoan women’s team are ranked 99th in the world and Ifill, a former Barbados international, said he wanted to make the most of his first appointment with a national team.
“My main aim throughout my coaching career has always been to make everyone I work with better at what they do, whether it be the coaches, team managers or players,” Ifill said.
“With the above in mind, I will work tirelessly to ensure that the Samoan women’s national team have a clear philosophy and playing style. I’m looking forward to educating myself and my team in our understanding of the Samoan culture and how we can use this to our advantage.
“With the FIFA Women’s World Cup on the horizon in 2023, there is a clear opportunity for another team from Oceania to qualify. We acknowledge that this will be a tough journey, but the rewards could be life changing for many.
“My aim is to prepare the players and team for this journey and make sure we have no regrets at the conclusion of the qualifying campaign. This really is an exciting time for football within the Oceania region and I am truly thankful for the opportunity to lead the team on this quest.”
Samoa’s men’s side are ranked 194th in the world and Calcott, who has previously coached the Cook Islands U-20s, said once the COVID-19 situation was under control, one of their key tasks would be ensuring they play more regular international matches.
“The vision for me will come about once we’ve really sat back and identified the group of players we have to work with,” he said.
“It’s really important to work through our scouting and talent ID networks and see what the group looks like and from there, as a starting point, we can ensure the group starts working physically over the next couple of months, especially the group in Samoa.”