With international travel restrictions in place as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, the Oceania Football Confederation has developed new initiatives to keep activities going in our Member Associations.

Player development across our Member Associations (MAs) is a key part of the OFC Football Development Strategy 2019-2026, and in order to help to activate grassroots programmes in our region, OFC Player Development Officer Phill Parker has been conducting online workshops with participants from Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and the Solomon Islands.

“Obviously the COVID-19 pandemic across the world has really changed how we are going to engage with our Member Associations this year. I guess we just have to understand how to work in different ways now, we have to be adaptable,” he explained.

“If we don’t have good grassroots programmes, the MAs will potentially struggle to achieve OFC’s 2026 vision of having two teams at the World Cup. I have to give credit to our management and Paul Toohey [Acting Head of Football Development] and Patrick Jacquemet [Chief of Football Development Division] to really get across the important message to the Technical Directors of the MAs that we need to engage with their Player Development Officers at the next level down.

“Those conversations really opened up the opportunity for me to go straight to the Development Officers and start working a lot more closely, a lot closer than we have in the past.

Parker said OFC’s Member Associations enthusiastically embraced the project.

“Yeah, they picked up on it really well, I’ve been really surprised, they have been really responsive to it.

“The online webinar series will prove to be important in this initial stage, but it has the potential to actually be a really good resource when we are able to sit and touch and feel and hear and be in the same room as our people across the Pacific. It will play a really important educational part somewhere in the future as well.”

Although only four Member Associations are involved at the moment, Parker was confident that the project would expand in the coming months to involve other Pacific countries.

“We targeted some MAs that we believe are ready to go. Obviously the different MAs have different government restrictions that are slowly starting to get released now,” he said.

“So we have identified the governments that we believe are going to be able to shift out of their isolation lockdown in their countries and we’ve identified four and potentially a fifth one whose government looks like they starting to be comfortable that they can open up activities again.

“Vanuatu, Solomons, Tonga, Fiji are the four at the moment. I’m very interested in Samoa because I can see that they have got some activities happening already, so I really want to get in touch with them and start to work with them. Tahiti and New Caledonia are always very, very self-sufficient but they will all end up on the radar at some point, I just have to brush up on my French.”