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Wood keen to make immediate impact

OFC's newest member of the FIFA Council, New Zealand Football vice-president Johanna Wood. Credit: OFC via Phototek

With a long and varied background in football, New Zealand’s Johanna Wood is well placed to represent the Oceania Football Confederation on the FIFA Council for the next four years.

Wood was elected during the OFC Extraordinary Congress on Saturday 9 March by six votes while inaugural female representative Sandra Fruean of American Samoa received five votes.

For Wood the role represents an opportunity to work for the Oceania football community, with the New Zealand Football vice-president declaring to be: “active in defending Oceania’s interests”.

She is well placed to do just that with OFC emerging from a leadership crisis which rocked the foundations of the organisation, something Wood knows all too well having been active in bringing New Zealand Football through the other side of the Muir Report in 2018.

“All through, whether at New Zealand-level, Oceania-level or FIFA-level, which is the world stage, we have to be squeaky clean and make sure our governance processes and procedures are sharp.

“I have a strong governance background,” Wood said.

“As a secondary school principal, you’re actually part of the Board of Trustees. I’ve been a member of the Fonterra Governance Development Programme and I’ve worked in governance locally within my community.

“All of those skills are really valuable, as is being able to deal with conflict. Trying to find a solution rather than thinking ‘this is a problem’. Often what we have is what we have, so we have to think about how we can make it better.”

Wood has already been thinking about some key areas which she would like to advocate for, but is also looking forward to getting to know her OFC Executive Committee colleagues to unearth the areas key for the Confederation as a whole.

“I think definitely around women’s football, and not just women’s football but leadership in football and that whole gambit,” Wood explained.

“We know for Oceania that travel is a real burden and we need to try and find a way to remove that barrier so that we can compete on the world stage.

“I need to do a bit more homework around that, and I’m sure I can find people to help me.

“One of the things I am really aware of is that we have 11 Member Associations for this Confederation so it’s not just about me, it’s about us.

“It’s about making sure our Confederation understands what is needed for the wider football community, because sometimes they may be in conflict.”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino attended the OFC Extraordinary Congress on Saturday and was delighted at the prospect of welcoming Wood to the FIFA Council.

“I’m definitely looking forward to it, it’s great,” he said.

“I congratulate her first of all on the election, well done. It’s important for women’s football in Oceania, it’s important for women’s football in the world and I’m looking forward to getting started, we have a lot of projects and she looks very motivated and energetic and that’s exactly what we need, well done,” the FIFA President said.

As well as being a representative on the FIFA Council, Wood also hopes become more hands-on closer to home.

“I have a background in mentoring and coaching so it would be great to use those skills and help facilitate those skills coming into our member associations because often we have more skills collectively than we give ourselves credit for.

“Sometimes we just need to open that door and let them shine.”

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