Excitement is building in Honiara ahead of the inaugural Solomon Islands Football Federation (SIFF) Just Play U-14 National Development Championship, which will take place between September 28 and October 2 at DC Park and Lawson Tama Stadium.

Following an overwhelming interest expressed by the Pacific nation’s Provincial Football Associations (PFAs), 28 boys teams and 14 girls teams will compete at the 7-a-side tournament at the capital’s premier football venues which will be divided in mini-pitches.

The participants include teams from the provinces as well as the youth sides of the country’s top clubs from the Telekom S-League.

SIFF Youth Development Officer Eddie Rukumana said the event would mark a historic milestone on the Solomon Islands football calendar.

“This competition is the first of its kind hosted by SIFF and it will be the biggest youth championship for us since we have 42 teams competing in this championship,” he said.

“The tournament is part of our long-term strategic plan of player identification and development for future national men’s and women’s teams.”

SIFF has also stepped up its verification process for player registration and Rukumana praised the PFA Youth Development Officers based in the provinces for their work on the ground.

“From past experiences, overage players has been an issue we continuously faced. So SIFF now has Youth Development Officers based in each province who have helped us a lot in making sure future youth competitions do not experience such problems.

“I had to reject a few players after consulting with the Ministry of Health and I believe all participating teams have already made the necessary changes to their teams.”

Following Wednesday’s official draw at the SIFF headquarters in Honiara the 28 boys teams were drawn in eight groups while 14 girls teams will compete in four groups.

The top two teams from each group will advance to the quarter-finals, with semi-finals and finals to follow.

Round-robin matches will be played at DC Park on the eastern side of Honiara while the finals will be held at Lawson Tama Stadium.

Apart from the action on the football pitches the Solomon Islands Just Play department will deliver key social messages and awareness of COVID-19 including measures to stay healthy during the tournament.