A momentous OFC-FIFA Guardians Safeguarding in Football Orientation Webinar has successfully concluded with participants from nine OFC Member Associations, OFC staff and FIFA Development Office – Oceania all participating.

The virtual webinar was staged in four parts where key speakers Kathryn Leslie, FIFA’s Head of Safeguarding and Child Protection, Gloria Viseras, FIFA Senior Event Safeguarding and Marie-Laure Lemineur, FIFA’s Safeguarding Training and Capacity Building Manager, shared their insights into the FIFA Guardians™ programme, and the FIFA Guardians Safeguarding in Sport Diploma. OFC Head of Social Responsibility, Melissa Palombi and OFC Technical Mentor, Michelle Paiti, provided the Oceania context, outlining where region’s governing body is on its safeguarding journey.

With powerful messages from FIFA President Gianni Infantino, FIFA Secretary General, Fatma Samoura, and OFC President, Lambert Maltock in Vanuatu, the webinar which aimed to present the what, why, who and how of safeguarding, quickly became a Call to Action.

In his opening address, President Infantino called on everyone to work together to kick harassment and abuse out of football and encouraged all member associations to implement safeguarding measures.

Expressing delight at the large attendance from across the Pacific, Samoura noted the presence and engagement of so many members of senior management, as a testament to how seriously Oceania is taking safeguarding.

“Football is surely a magical sport. It has a power to unite, transform and inspire throughout the world. Children, young people and vulnerable adults proudly wear the shirts of their favourite players, they idolise them,” Samoura said.

“It is for this reason that we must work together to uphold the principles that make up the FIFA Guardians programme. By upholding these principles, we maintain vigilance, we protect them from harassment, abuse, exploitation and above all, we allow children and vulnerable adults to lose themselves in the magic of football. We allow their focus to remain on playing like their idols, following the inspirational path of their heroes and loving the game.”

Samoura, who has an extensive background in humanitarian work with the UN, concluded by calling on those in attendance to make football a safe haven for children and vulnerable adults in Oceania.

“Let us fulfil our duty as custodians of the game by taking all measures to care and protect our children, because when the wellbeing of our children on the pitch is at stake, it is the heart of the most popular game on earth that bleeds.”

The sentiments of the FIFA General Secretary were echoed by the OFC President, Lambert Maltock, who emphasised the importance of the webinar in showcasing the duty OFC and its Member Associations have to take providing a safe environment for everyone involved in football, particularly children.

“I would like to remind everyone, stress it very strongly, that FIFA and OFC are committed 100 per cent to promoting safe sport. This commitment is reflected in the FIFA Statutes and the OFC Code of Ethics.

“Sadly, the Pacific region has recorded some of the highest levels of domestic and gender-based violence in the world, and it is important to the OFC football family to recognise all forms of violence, bullying and abuse also happen in sport, even within football’s circle itself.

“Given the culture, attitude and way of living in the Pacific many a times, harassment and abuse of children, young people and vulnerable adults has been left unattended, or covered by customs, if not to be considered as normal. Such harmful attitudes and practices must be eliminated from our communities, therefore it is our duty as a Confederation to help FIFA to combat such kinds of moral virus.”

Maltock stressed to attendees the importance of remaining united in making football a safe, inclusive environment for all, calling on Member Association’s senior managers in particular, to commit to putting safeguarding of children, young people and vulnerable adults at the heart of everything they do.”

The webinar concluded by outlining the first steps OFC Member Associations can take to move their Safeguarding journey forward, including the appointment of a safeguarding officer or focal point.

It also saw a commitment from the OFC President, to making it mandatory for anyone working in football within the Oceania region, to participate the 90 minute FIFA Guardians Safeguarding Essentials course.

“Down harassment and abuses in sport in the Pacific. Long live the beautiful game, long live FIFA and long live Oceania football,” Maltock concluded.

The FIFA Guardians Safeguarding in Sport education programme can be accessed here.