The OFC Women’s Nations Cup kicked off on Wednesday, but Suva has also been the scene of some fantastic off the field action as well. OFC delegates have met and connected, while activities have brought smiles and happiness for local children.

The week kicked off on Sunday with a referees session catered to the tournament’s referees. The session focused on raising awareness on Gender Equality and Ending Violence Against Women and Girls with the Fiji Women and Children’s Crisis Centre.

On Monday the emotional meeting of our Women’s Development Officers took place, followed by a workshop to improve skills and confidence in their roles. This was a very important step in the reestablishment of women’s football in the region after the long pandemic-based disruption.

The most important discussion was learning about the different challenges each Member Association faced during that time and how they can support one another to move forward and grow the game.

Tuesday saw the UN Women Conference get underway, with a very impressive panel of experts giving their views on how football, and sport in general, can improve the lives of women and girls and create gender equality in Oceania. It was also a chance to acknowledge the challenges faced by female players, coaches and administrators and how their experiences could be improved.

On Thursday before the Women’s Nations Cup double header, the backfields of HFC Bank Stadium were filled with the sound of laughter and fun as the first Just Play Festival took place.

Around 150 local children and teens aged six to 16 participated in various stations to improve their skills, meet new friends and most importantly, have fun.

OFC Player Development Officer Phil Parker said the experience was “amazing”.

“The Fiji Football Association staff called together 150 children, mainly girls…we were really trying to promote the message of ‘This Is How We Football’. What I found really lovely is that Fiji have their own, unique way of consuming and engaging with football,” Parker said.

“The staff were very creative in their set up. They have a school adaptation project, so because of that it was absolutely packed. It was the second day of activities after our street football set up at the stadium, so it really was a continuation of free play.”

There will be another Just Play festival on July 23, which Parker is confident will draw even more numbers.