With the recent inclusion of Kiribati and Tuvalu as Associate Members of the Oceania Football Confederation, the OFC have two new members to provide more assistance to.
The news that the two members were admitted back in to play competitions and be more involved in the OFC came in March. Since then, the OFC have identified a few ways of helping the countries, including assisting Kiribati with funds.
“At this time, together with Kiribati FA, we have assessed the current needs and identified the need to provide football, futsal and beach soccer equipment as an immediate priority. Further short-term priorities include capacity building of the volunteer base and training programmes for referees and coaches,” OFC Head of Football Development, Paul Toohey tells Football in Oceania.
“OFC is committed to the ongoing development of its Associate Members and as we continue our work we will identify further ways we can help,” Toohey says.
He says they have “observed enthusiasm and passion for football among coaches, players, referees and fans” in both Kiribati and Tuvalu.
The two Associate Members have the chance of participating in the OFC Champions League, among other OFC tournaments, but Toohey says the OFC have so far not heard anything from the two countries about it.
“Associate Members have the right to take part in official competitions on the terms applicable to competition regulations. At this time, OFC has not received any indication Kiribati and Tuvalu intend to participate in any 2021 scheduled competitions,” Toohey says.
But it’s not just the “new” OFC members that the Football Development department of the OFC focuses on. They also look at the full members of the confederation.
Many countries in Oceania struggle with getting football out to their islands, due to the distance and money it costs. Toohey says the OFC does not take charge of where the “development funding” they hand out is used, but that they encourage the decentralization of football.
“The Member Associations are responsible for the direction their development takes, which includes the decentralisation of activities, tournaments and/or leagues. At Confederation level we encourage our Member Associations to create and offer development opportunities outside of the main centres, and it is already a priority in many of OFC’s Member Associations,” Toohey says.
However, the OFC does put in place means to ensure women’s football is prioritized.
“Fifty per cent of OFC development funding is focused on women’s football,” Toohey says.
Recently the Solomon Islands finished off their first ever women’s Premier League, while the top flight for women is underway in both New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
“The forthcoming OFC Women’s Football Strategy 2020-23 will highlight that equal opportunities for girls and women to participate in all forms of football from participation to high-performance level, is an immediate priority for the organisation,” Toohey said.