Tonga has joined Cook Islands in leading the OFC Education Centre pilot after the official launch at Loto Tonga Soka Centre in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, today.

OFC President David Chung, Tonga Football Association President Lord Ve’ehala and Prime Minister of Tonga, the Honourable Samiuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva unveiled a plaque to mark the opening of the centre in front of Government officials, local club representatives, members of the community and current OFC coaching and refereeing course participants.

In his key note speech, Hon. Pohiva acknowledged Oceania Football Confederation for their contribution to football and education in Tonga and expressed his excitement for the centre’s future impact on the entire nation.

“I am delighted to thank the Senior Vice President of FIFA and the President of Oceania Football Confederation David Chung for recognising Tonga to be one of the pilot nations for the OFC Education Centre,” he said.

“The OFC Education Centre will open doors and opportunities for Tongans passionate about a career in football.

“Tongan youth and players will have an education institute to gain knowledge, skills and experience in football.

“It will be a foundation for development of sport in Tonga by providing structured pathways to qualification and careers for those interested in football and any sport.”

Lord Ve’ehala also expressed his excitement for the potential of the Education Centre and said it was an honour to have Tonga Football Association selected as one of the first member associations to benefit from it.

“I would like to thank Mr David Chung and OFC for the vision that you have shared with us and have now implemented in the Cook Islands and Tonga,” he said.

“Football has evolved from what it was in the past and we need be strategically focused and push forward. We need fields, we need administration, we need logistics and we need to drive football forward as one big family.

“We hope to better Tonga Football Association in the future but we need everyone to move together to drive football forward.”

With two centres in Cook Islands and Tonga open and running, Chung is feeling confident about making a positive impact in Polynesia ahead of the official rollout of the OFC Education Centre across Oceania.

“The end objective is to grow football and create quality players, administrators, coaches and referees so that Tonga can one day achieve the dream of being among the elite football nations of the world,” he said.

“The important thing for us is quality, not quantity, and we want to first make sure that these Polynesian countries are successful in improving the quality of administration and instructing.

“Hopefully can launch the programme in the rest of Oceania’s Member Associations by next year and by then, we will have received the reviews from Tonga and Cook Islands and made improvements to the programme.”

Find more information on the OFC Education Centre here.