The Tahiti U-17 team wrapped up their training camp on Moorea early this week and are all set to depart for Vanuatu to take part in the inaugural OFC Youth Development Tournament 2019.

The Vatea Terai coached side is excited by the prospect of playing international football, but also by the learning opportunities offered by the tournament.

“What’s interesting about this program is that UEFA and OFC are offering seminars for coaches, referees and also for young players. The goal is to develop the performance within the team. It’s very interesting and I welcome this initiative because we need to improve at all levels, be it coaches, referees or players,” he said.

As part of the experiences and development opportunities offered, the tournament strategy includes dedicated time with European and Oceania technical specialists to discuss youth football development trends and analyse the needs of each national federation.

There will also be a workshop for players to develop their understanding of digital and social media.

While the draw for this competition was only recently finalised, Tahiti began building up to the tournament in July.

“Preparations have been underway since July 8 and we are in the 4th week of our preparations now. We started with the group which took part in the qualifiers for the U-17 World Cup last year. We added some other players so we started with a group of 30 players and needed to get it down to 20.”

Ultimately, the event is less about results than about providing experiences, stimulating learning, and improving performance at the international level, which Terai says is a good approach to take for youth development.

“It’s a friendly tournament of course, but it’s a way to still show our young people football outside of our country and help them progress, to play the OFC teams that they may have already met during the playoffs from last year. But we will have new encounters with UEFA and Asia, whose level is higher, which gives us the opportunity to reach for this level, both for our players and for our coaching staff.”

Terai’s boys have been drawn alongside Papua New Guinea and Estonia in Group Am, while Group B is made up of New Caledonia, India and host Vanuatu.

Funded by the UEFA Assist program, the first edition of this U-18 event will take place in Port Vila, Vanuatu from 15 to 24 August 2019 and will feature teams from Oceania, Europe and Asia.