After signing a three-year contract with the Fiji Football Association in February, former Denmark international Flemming Serritslev was appointed head coach of the country’s national team.

The 73-year-old has vast experience following a coaching career stretching back to 1981 and encompassing managerial positions in Europe, Africa and Asia, as well as Oceania.

Under his guidance the Papua New Guinea national side came agonisingly close to the 2016 OFC Nations Cup crown on home soil, before suffering a heart-breaking penalty shoot-out defeat to New Zealand in the tournament’s title decider.

With uncertainty and severe disruptions to the international football calendar due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Serritslev’s tenure in Fiji has been less than ideal so far.

As a result of cancelations, including the OFC Nations Cup 2020, the Fiji head coach has been forced to patiently wait for his debut appearance in charge of the Bula Boys.

But that hasn’t stopped the experienced Dane using any available opportunity to work with his players, which was evidenced by the recent five-day training camp held at the Fiji Football Academy in Ba.

OFC Media caught up with the Fiji mentor to find out about his progress so far, as well as his long-term vision and goals.

What’s your overall assessment of the Fiji national team’s recent camp?

Our first camp after the lockdown was really good. We invited many young players, and they fulfilled my expectations. I feel the mood was fine and all players came with a positive attitude.

What have you identified as the main challenges for your team and for you as a head coach?

Our main challenges are still to be able to play a very fast game on the ground with few touches on the ball.

Fiji head coach Flemming Serritslev. Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek

With so much uncertainty regarding fixtures and schedules, what is your main focus, what can you do to make sure your team will be ready for the resumption of international competitions?

We will have a number of camps throughout autumn, so we will be ready for the competitions as soon as the schedules are fixed.

What target did you set for yourself and for your team, and in your view how realistic is the goal to secure two OFC spots at the 2026 FIFA World Cup?

We have set the bar high for the future. We want to be the best team in the OFC, and with hard work and sticking to our playing style philosophy I believe it is realistic, well knowing that all other countries in the region also work very hard.

You have plenty of experience in Oceania, how optimistic are you about football development in our region?

First of all the OFC has to continue working very hard on coach education. Coach education is the premise for developing good players. There are a lot of good players in the region, but unfortunately they don’t have the same good conditions for development as their colleagues in Asia and Europe. I wish for all OFC nations that they could have professional, or at least semi-professional conditions, then you would see an explosion of development in football in the region. I am totally aware it’s a question of money and resources and I hope in future, it will be possible to create so much interest for football in the region, that big companies find it interesting to promote themselves via football.

Flemming Serritslev, right, chats with former All Whites coach Anthony Hudson and Hudson’s assistant coach Alex Armstrong before the 2016 OFC Nations Cup Final. Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek

You came agonisingly close to winning the OFC Nations Cup with PNG in 2016, how motivated are you to lead Fiji to an Oceania crown?

Every coach wants to win trophies. It would be a huge for all of us in Fiji Football Association to bring Fiji to the top of the region.

Each Member Association presents unique challenges that you need to overcome both as a player and as a coach, how much have you learned from your tenure at PNG, and how useful are those experiences in assisting you in Fiji.

I learned a lot from my tenure in PNG. First of all, you need to have a fixed playing style, not a system, but a playing style philosophy. Then it is important that you show the players confidence, that you believe in them, try to give them self-confidence and to convince them that drugs and alcohol are incompatible with top sport. They have to choose, if they want to be top footballers and live a life that is compatible with this. In Fiji I have a strong organisation behind me [in the Fiji Football Association], which supports my ideas.