The inaugural OFC Youth Futsal Tournament has concluded following the three final matches for the men at Bruce Pulman Arena this morning.
Although New Zealand coach Marvin Eakins was disappointed to fall short of qualification for the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, he was pleased with the high level of competition at the inaugural tournament and is looking forward to seeing futsal continue to grow in Oceania.
“We really enjoyed the tournament and we really hope this becomes something that happens every year because the benefits are huge for all the countries involved. It’s an exciting opportunity and we’re really looking forward to the plans for 2018,” he said.
Vanuatu coach Richard Lehi was pleased to finish their campaign with a close battle against New Zealand and was very grateful to Oceania Football Confederation and New Zealand Football for creating a pathway for the young futsal talent from their nation.
“This was a good tournament and we are very glad we took part in it. It has been good for our grassroots, youth and futsal programmes back home because we’ve never had an event to prepare for. Now we have something that we can set goals for in our youth programmes and we are very happy,” he said.
Unable to claim any points in the first three days, Tonga finished the competition on a high after defeating American Samoa in a neck-and-neck battle to finish their campaign in sixth place. Tonga coach Soane Mailangi was overjoyed with the success of Tonga’s men’s and women’s teams.
“Finishing with a win was good. This is our first competition and we’ve won on the last game so this will be a very cool story for the kids. Not only that but the girls won the silver and this is really impressive for us. We’ll go back to Tonga knowing that everyone is proud of us,” he said.
American Samoa coach Tunoa Lui was disappointed to place last in the men’s tournament but was grateful to compete in the tournament and take the first step in developing futsal in American Samoa
“Overall it was a very good tournament for our team because we had never participated in a futsal tournament. This is a very good learning experience for our boys and our management because it’s very different from football. The tournament overall was really nice and we enjoyed it very, very much,” he said.
Unable to claim any points in the first three days, Samoa finished on a high with an impressive 5-1 win against New Caledonia. At the end of the match, Samoa coach Horst Petana was lost for words.
“It’s unbelievable. I don’t know what to say, I’m overwhelmed. Credit to the boys, we only had six weeks to prepare but they’ve done their job and they’ve made their country proud,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of New Caledonia, physiotherapist Francois Soulier said the experience has been invaluable for his team, bringing the group closer together and helping them develop as a team.
“This was a really good tournament for us because we only had two weeks to prepare and the experience has brought the group closer together. I hope we can return in the future stronger,” he said.
Solomon Islands returned to claim the title at the prizegiving which followed the final match of the day between Samoa and New Caledonia. Golden Ball and Golden boot were awarded to Solomon Islands’ Raphael Le-ai and New Zealand’s Patrick Steele claimed the Golden Gloves Award.
After travelling from Zurich to witness Oceania’s talent over the past four days, FIFA Beach Soccer and Futsal Manager Brent Rahim is looking forward to what the future holds for futsal in Oceania.
“It’s been a great tournament. There has been great participation from all the countries. It has provided an opportunity for countries to participate in a tournament that has never existed in the past and it has provided a chance for the young players in this tournament to really test their abilities against other countries,” he said.
“It has been a well-organised tournament with highly-competitive matches and a lot of enthusiasm. OFC has done a great job and it was a great initiative to organise this tournament for the first time in the region. We hope that tournaments such as this one will continue and will grow from strength to strength.”
The Solomon Islands youth men’s team and the New Zealand youth women’s team will represent Oceania at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games which will run from 1-6 October next year.