October 2, 2023

Castillo on Saudi-deal: “An opportunity for OFC to share its expertise”

OFC General Secretary Franck Castillo speaks to Football in Oceania about the MOU with Saudi Arabia.

OFC’s General Secretary, Franck Castillo. (Shane Wenzlick/Phototek)

On Thursday the news broke that the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) and the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), that is set to focus on Women’s football, Beach Soccer and Futsal.

Among the parts of the deal mentioned in the press release, the MOU will allow for Women’s Football, Futsal and Beach Soccer teams from Saudi Arabia to participate as guest teams in relevant OFC competitions, and vice versa.

The OFC will receive no funding as part of the MOU, Castillo tells Football in Oceania.

“This is an opportunity for OFC to share its expertise with a particular focus on Women’s Football, Futsal and Beach Soccer,” Castillo tells Football in Oceania.

“Saudi Arabia is committed to develop women’s football and has been taking steps to bring equality for women. OFC launched the Women’s Football Strategy 2027 in 2021 and this is something OFC is committed to in our region and if we can help the Saudi Arabian Football Federation achieve this, we will.”

OFC President Lambert Maltock (right) with SAFF President Yasser Al Misehal. (Photo credit: Greg Porteous/OFC Media)

Saudi Arabia is a country that is being heavily criticized for its lack of human rights, including LGBTQ and women’s rights.

“OFC is sensitive to the concerns that some people might have, but I wants to emphasise this partnership is about helping Saudi Arabia continue on a path to gender equality, equal rights for women,” Castillo says.

The middle eastern country has also been criticized for “sportswashing”, using sports, in particular investing in football, to help keep the attention away from the human rights issuses.

Has the OFC considered that it might be taking part in so-called “sportswashing” for Saudi Arabia?”

“We are talking about women football here, nothing else. I have been working more than 10 years in social development through sport, and I know that football can bring positive change, especially toward women and girls. When a country, and in this case Saudi Arabia Football Federation, goes in the right way for more equality, our responsibility is to support the change and help them,” says Castillo.

The MOU between OFC and SAFF is for five years.

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