Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek
Fiji return to the OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup this week in Tahiti for the first time since 2011.
The country has been described as the sleeping giant of Beach Soccer with the Fijian FA working with FIFA to create Beach Soccer pitches and build a long-term development programme in the country.
The Fiji FA has seen the success Tahiti has had in becoming a genuine world powerhouse and making two FIFA World Cup Finals and now Fiji is determined to close the gap.
Coach Jerry Sam is a Solomon Islands legend and has been working with Fiji for nearly two years. He is also the country’s Futsal coach and will feature at the upcoming OFC Futsal Nations Cup in Auckland, New Zealand.
Sam is a former coach of the Solomon Islands Futsal team the ‘Kurukuru’ and one of the most experienced technical people in the region, having worked with Marist FC (SOL) and Hekari United (PNG) in the OFC Champions League.
So, what hopes does Sam have for a Fijian team that does not have much Beach Soccer experience, in Papeete?
“I think we have a few challenges there. But the good thing about these challenges is these boys are football players and I try my best to pass on the knowledge and relate the small-sided games to them.
“There is now a good pathway for the future of Beach Soccer in Fiji. Most of the boys play Futsal and when you look at it, tactically, it’s [Beach Soccer] almost the same as Futsal and so we will try and put a tactical aspect of the game for these boys to understand what to execute.”
Numerous Football legends like Eric Cantona, Zico, and Junior to name a few have made their name in Beach Soccer and the comparison to Cantona triggers fond memories for Sam.
“Yeah, I think I think that’s a good example from Eric Cantona. When I was a kid, I’ve been following Eric Cantona when he was playing for Manchester United. He’s an icon and knowing that after he retired, and he spent most of the time with Beach Soccer. I have tried to motivate the boys to spend more time on Beach Soccer and help Fiji to develop and grow the sport,” Sam said.
Sam is a proud Solomon Islander but will have no divided loyalties at this tournament.
“Yeah, with respect, Solomon Islands always have a good team. But within our boys we also we have prepared and know that within sport nothing is impossible and we are ready for the first match.” Sam said.
One of the younger members of the Fiji squad is forward Rajneel Singh and he can’t wait to represent his country for the first time.
“We are very excited about this tournament. It’s a long time since we have been in Beach Soccer but we are proud to be here and we will leave a statement,” Singh said.
Singh has praised the influence coach Jerry Sam has had on the side.
“Jerry Sam on our side is very a huge blessing for us. The techniques that he brings to the team and the motivation with such an experienced coach, the boys are highly motivated.”
“The tournament will be hard but our boys have it in their mind. So we are physically prepared and emotionally prepared for this tournament and we will come fighting.”
Fiji kick-off their tournament in the opening match against the Solomon Islands at 2pm local time on Tuesday (Wednesday 12 pm Fiji time).