December 7, 2023

INTERVIEW: Fiji’s Mission 2026 explained

Fiji Men’s Head Coach Christophe Gamel talks to Football in Oceania about Fiji FA’s plans to qualify for the World Cup in 2026 and other short-term goals.

Fiji Men’s Head Coach Christophe Gamel talks to Football in Oceania about Fiji FA’s plans to qualify for the World Cup in 2026 and other short-term goals.

The launch of the U16 Youth League (Photo credit: Fiji FA)

On the 10th of August, Fiji Football Association (FFA) launched the Vodafone U16 Youth League with the statement “Mission 2026″, with the hope of finding players to represent Fiji in nine years time.

However, Mission 2026 goes beyond just finding talented youngsters in the country, Fiji Men’s Head Coach Christophe Gamel explains. Among one of the many things he would like to do is to professionalise the Fijian Vodafone Premier League, preferably within three years. To start off with, six currently unnamed clubs will be selected.

“It is a long process, together with Mr Yusuf Mohammed [CEO of Fiji FA]. We will need the help of the OFC because it is a long process with a lot of administration work. Six clubs will be selected at the beginning and sponsors will have a very important place. We want players to have a future,” Gamel tells Football in Oceania.

Gamel also hopes to upgrade the facilities currently in place in Fiji and he hopes to make Ba his base of operations by upgrading and expanding the facilities – and if the funds can be raised, to build a hotel to host other national teams in an effort to bring better opponents to play against.

“I will present a new plan to change the structure of the Ba Academy. We will use the facilities already in place, plus the creation of specific areas like accommodations, beach soccer, 5v5 fields, space for rehabilitation, ice bath etc. In addition, and only if the FFA obtain funds enough, I would like to build a hotel to host teams, with good facilities like physio room, gym and video rooms. Then we could host pro teams from overseas for camps and use it for our own preparation.”

The Frenchman would also like to put a few national youth “development” teams into the Premier League like both Papua New Guinea and Tahiti have done, but he’s unsure of whether or not he can get that done just yet.

“I would like to create three teams with a mix of U20 to U22 players, one in the north, one in the south and one in the west, integrated in Vodafone Premier League and then the best players of these three teams will be chosen to be part of U20 national team and U23 Olympic team. But I don’t really know if it is possible yet.”

Gamel speaking at the U16 Youth League launch (Photo credit: Fiji FA)

For the current crop of national players, Gamel will do everything in his power to make them better, starting by playing better ranked national teams. First up is Indonesia (175 on FIFA Ranking, 2nd September) and Estonia (98 on FIFA Ranking, 19th November) while he is also working on getting more fixtures against Asian opponents. A match against Hong Kong (possibly 5th of October) is almost secured as well.

“I chose really hard games against good FIFA ranked teams and have selected youth players to prepare for the future. It will give them experience. We could have some very bad losses but these two overseas teams like to keep possession and press in all part of the field when they lose the ball. I want to see how my players will react against stronger opponents. I need also to see if Fijian soccer can control the tempo of the game because these two teams have really big tempo during the match.

“For other international friendly games, I await their confirmation, some teams are involved in AFC World Cup qualifiers like Thailand.”

Liverpool’s Ragnar Klavan is Estonia’s captain and could be coming with the team to Fiji in November (Photo credit:

The OFC Nations Cup last summer was a disappointment for Fiji as they stumbled out at the group stages. Since then Gamel has come in and he hopes to use the next Nations Cup in 2020 to give Fiji some better exposure but realises they are a little behind some other nations and believes New Zealand could be toppled as Oceania’s number one.

“The next OFC Nation Cup is a possibility to give big exposure to Fiji by playing against top national teams. However, I have to stay realistic because New Zealand is ahead of us. New Caledonia is also ahead and 10 years ago they engaged a plan for grassroots development, now they got many youth professional players. They will overtake New Zealand in the future. Let’s see if my prediction will be right.

“I would like that Fiji creates a good surprise during this competition but I know that we have a big road ahead before we achieve these goals.”

A big thank you to Christophe Gamel for his time, you can follow Christophe on Twitter here

You can visit the Fiji FA’s website here

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