As part of Oceania Football Confederation’s strategic plan, the OFC Football Development department has piloted a successful Football Festival event at the Park Estate School in the Auckland suburb of Papakura.

Eighty-seven children, between the ages of 8 and 10 participated in the activities designed to provide them with the opportunity to experience football in a fun, safe and enjoyable environment, which for most of the students, was for the first time.

The test event was also organised to establish a case for creating similar festivals and to fine tune all the logistics necessary to conduct such activities in the future across the Pacific.

Supporting OFC’s plans to roll out the targeted and strategic football festivals, the Park Estate School project was a significant step towards developing a blueprint for our OFC Member Associations (MAs) to follow.

In order to support the delivery of a more consistent player development framework in our MAs, the region’s Player Development Officers will also have access to educational video materials produced by OFC TV through the Football Development Centre initiative.

Using small sided games, the guiding principles of OFC Football Festival programmes include equal opportunity for boys and girls in a creative and positive football orientated environment.

OFC Player Development Officer Phill Parker stressed the importance of making sure that all activities within the football festival look and feel like football.

“Considering the majority of the children have never played football before, it’s important that we create an enjoyable and engaging setting while we maintain a strong reference to football throughout our activities,” he said.

“We hope our Member Associations engage and encourage the children through their individual exploration and provide them with a tangible development pathway that starts with a positive first experience and continues beyond this first contact.

“If we simply put football activity on, the children will come, they will experience it and potentially fall in love with the game. This is the most exciting prospect for me, personally, more children playing, more regularly.”

Following the success of the Park Estate Football Festival experiment, Parker was confident the programme had the potential to entice even more children to football and to benefit grassroots player development throughout the region.