The Solomon Islands have ambitions of reaching the semi-final stage of the upcoming OFC Women’s Nation Cup at the very least, according to Solomon Islands Football Federation president William Lai.
The Solomon Islands are the second-lowest ranked side, only Vanuatu are ranked lower, at July’s tournament, in which they have been drawn in a tough Group C, alongside host nation Fiji and 2018 semi-finalists New Caledonia.
However, Lai says SIFF have been working hard in recent years to improve women’s football across the nation and they hope to reap the rewards in Fiji.
“Success does not just come suddenly,” Lai said.
“In it there is a lot of hard work and time, especially in the national teams. We cannot just buy players from overseas to represent the Solomon Islands. We have to build players.
“For many years we have been working hard to change women’s football. In the last two years we have intensified the effort especially with the senior women’s national team.”
One of the improvements Lai notes as pivotal to any potential success is the implementation of the Solrais Women’s Premier League in 2020. The premier women’s competition gives the Solomon Islands’ best women’s footballers the chance to play regularly and for emerging talents to be identified faster.
“We have a new national league, so that the players can perform there and play there regularly, which has been a success,” Lai said.
“From the national league we now have more a pool of players to select from.”
To guide them in their final four mission, the Solomon Islands have appointed one of the biggest names in the history of the nation’s men’s game. Batram Suri was named as the new head coach of the women’s national team last November.
Lai said Suri is not only one of the “most deadly strikers” in the country’s history but also addressed his spread of playing and coaching experience throughout the region, including spells in Fiji, New Zealand and Vanuatu.
“We hope with his experience, with his desire, with his everything we are sure that women’s football will have a better result than before,” Lai said.
“For July’s tournament we have targeted semi-finals. The minimum is semi-final.”
Suri, who previously guided the Solomon Islands U-19 and U-23 men’s teams, agreed with Lai’s assessment, believing Solomon Islands might cause an upset in July.
“We have an aim of at least the semi-finals of the competition, and we have worked hard in recent weeks,” he told the media.
“We believe the underdog ruins everyone else’s competition.”
Solomon Islands kick off their Women’s Nations Cup campaign on Thursday, July 14, when they face Fiji before taking on New Caledonia in their final group game on Wednesday, July 20.