Tight border restrictions at home in Samoa have triggered a change in approach for the Football Federation Samoa when it comes to assembling their national teams, and it’s one which now has them in good shape ahead of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 in Fiji.
New head coach – Wellington Phoenix legend Paul Ifill – is based in New Zealand and unable to get to Samoa, meaning he has been overseeing their recruitment drive from afar and working hard to track down players who have previously played for the national team.
“It probably wouldn’t have happened if COVID didn’t force us into it,” Ifill said.
“We have Monique Fischer who plays for Lugano in Switzerland and a couple we have earmarked in the USA and Australia who have played for the national team previously.
“We’ve been lucky enough to get a few over from Australia and one from the US for our latest camp too.
“It is difficult at the moment to get players out of Samoa due to the lockdowns over there and I haven’t got to see any of them other than through remote technology. I’m looking forward to when the borders open fully and I can go to Samoa to see the local talent.
“They are training in Samoa which is a great starting point. There is also the issue of their level of fitness, which will be down due to being in lockdown.”
In regards to growing the player pool, Ifill casts his mind back to the mid 2000s when he was representing Barbados.
“When I was playing for Barbados I was a Premier League player, and there were four or five others who were eligible that were playing Premier League, but not getting selected… I’d often think ‘why have you not done your homework here?’.
“That’s something we spoke about early in the piece here, especially with COVID, we need to make sure we have a wider base of players for future tournaments.”
Samoa will take on Tonga and Cook Islands in an all-Polynesian Group A of the Women’s Nations Cup which kicks off on July 13 in Suva.