Tony Readings has forged a successful coaching career with football teams in New Zealand for the past 15 years and the next challenge is to impart his wisdom across the Pacific.

Readings began his role as FIFA’s Technical Consultant for Oceania in September and has endured a slightly muted start to the job given the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

His CV is lengthy, having coached New Zealand’s Football Ferns from 2011-2017, while he also mixed in stints with the national men’s and women’s U-20 sides.

His most recent job was Director of Football for Auckland-based national league club Eastern Suburbs.

Readings was in charge of their OFC Champions League campaign earlier this year where they topped Group A in Papua New Guinea before the tournament was cancelled due to COVID-19.

When the opportunity arose to assist people in the Pacific, Readings jumped at it.

“When I go to work, I want to try and help make the biggest difference and I can see there’s so much potential within the Oceania region,” he said.

“There’s a lot of good things happening from FIFA at the moment, lots of good things happening from OFC and I think it’s a great opportunity to be involved and hopefully the work we can all do together can not only improve things now but also leave a good legacy for the future as well.”

His position is about making sure Oceania’s Member Associations (MAs) have the chance to develop at their own pace.

“The role is quite wide-ranging and for me, it’s all around tailoring my support or FIFA’s support around the needs of the different MAs.

“So, for one MA, it could be completely different to the other and with good strategic planning processes and targeting certain areas then part of my role will be to help each MA achieve the outcomes that they’re after.

“So some of it could be around coach education, some of it could be around setting up national academies, some of it could be around grassroots and participation. But it’s just tailoring that support because each MA is different, each has different needs and some are more developed in different areas.”

Tony Readings during a training session with the Football Ferns in 2014. Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek

The potential in Pacific football is undeniable and Readings said he wanted to see the right pathways put in place to ensure the development opportunities were there for the athletes to improve.

“It’s about optimising as much as we can and the better we can make coaches, the more we can support coaches to have a positive impact on player development; then it’s about setting up systems and environments that the players thrive in.

“The more people we can get playing then the more players we’ll have to choose from; then if we can surround them with the best environment, the best coaches and the best systems and structures as well then we are going to have more players popping out the other end.”

Two weeks ago, Readings was one of the presenters for the OFC/NZF A Licence coaching course held in Auckland.

He hoped to be able to get around more of the region as soon as international travel throughout the Pacific becomes possible again.

“Being able to travel would be a huge thing because you can get an opportunity to build those relationships and, for me, understanding context is a huge thing and I’ve been around the region for quite a few years now, but I think immersing yourself in those different countries is really important.”