OFC President Lambert Maltock has shared his heartfelt congratulations to New Zealand and Solomon Islands on qualifying for the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Maltock watched each of the matches with admiration and pride as clear evidence of the youth development being implemented in OFC Member Associations.
“The young players we saw representing New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tahiti, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Samoa and Fiji are in the infancy of their careers, but over the course of the OFC U-16 Championship they have kept audiences across the globe captivated by their talent and resolve,” Maltock said.
“That New Zealand has continued their impressive run at this level to secure a seventh-straight title is a testament not only to the development programmes in place, but also to this hugely talented group and their staff.
Maltock credited New Zealand for their ability to come back from a heavy defeat in the group stage.
“That showed mental strength and perseverance beyond their years for which they must be commended.
To the Solomon Islands, Maltock had a two-fold congratulatory message.
“A first-ever FIFA World Cup – what a wonderful achievement for this young side of incredibly talented players.
“The manner in which this team finished their campaign, pushing the seven-time competition winners to the limit, was amazing to witness.
“They have set a benchmark for other OFC Member Associations in terms of the results they achieved and the way in which they achieved them.”
Maltock made special mention of Raphael Le’ai, the Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner.
“He made an undeniable impact on the squad with his goal scoring abilities, but he also showed himself to be a team player with the high number of assists he achieved as well as the inspiring nature with which he conducted himself,” he said.”
In addition to qualifying for their first football world tournament, Maltock said a massive congratulations must be extended to the Solomon Islands Football Federation, the Local Organising Committee and the people of the Solomon Islands for their wonderful hospitality.
“Taking on the responsibility of hosting a tournament of this size is no easy task but it is one which the LOC and SIFF did not take lightly.
“They delivered in every way with the pitch looking fantastic, and the conditions for a fantastic competition and display of football being met in every way.
“I also cannot look past the fantastic football community who showed up in numbers, who gave their support to every team and player present and created an atmosphere these young footballers will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Maltock also acknowledged the work of the OFC Competitions, Media and TV staff for their contribution to the organisation and running of the tournament and the coverage which meant the football community across the region, and the world, were able to follow and engage with their teams.
“Congratulations once more to New Zealand and Solomon Islands on qualifying for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, I know that you will both be outstanding representatives for the Solomon Islands and Oceania when you step onto the world stage.”