Lithuania 2021 – Solomon Islands
- Solomon Islands forced to prepare for Lithuania 2021 on old basketball court
- They benefited from the support of the FIFA aid plan against the Covid-19
- The Kurukuru featured in the latest episode of Living Football
The Solomons are passionate about football, as evidenced by the more than 10,000 spectators who regularly crowd into the stands at Lawson Tama Stadium. It is a beautiful affluence for a country whose main island has just 100,000 inhabitants.
Futsal is also very popular in the archipelago, where it is much more popular than in any other region of the Pacific. “Futsal is growing rapidly,” confirms Micah Lea’alafa, the iconic captain of the national team. “Everyone is playing it here.”
Demonstrating their dominance in Oceania, the Solomonese will play their fifth consecutive FIFA Futsal World Cup in Lithuania, where they face Morocco, Portugal and Thailand in the group stage.
Without land, with passion
The Solomon Islands is one of the 16 competing nations that has suffered the most from the health crisis. Players and referees lost their jobs, and the team was deprived of access to the only national field by the country’s standards, which compromised its preparation. Their Honiara training site having been converted into a vaccination center, the Kurukuru are reduced to practicing outdoors on a rudimentary basketball court, far from the quality facilities enjoyed by many of their opponents. “The pitch prevents us from giving 100% for safety reasons, but so far everything is going well and the players are in good shape,” said Lea’alafa. “When we can train on real ground, we will work on the technical aspects of our game.”
The Solomon Islands have experienced varying fortunes during their previous globalist campaigns. However, they registered their name in the tournament’s guestbook by winning over Guatemala, thanks in particular to their 16-year-old goalkeeper, who scored the winning goal.
Financing for development
If their preparation has been disrupted, the Solomonese will be able to use the FIFA aid plan against the Covid-19 to cover part of the training and travel costs before the Futsal World Cup. “The Covid-19 has damaged football in the Solomon Islands,” said Leonard Paia, general manager of the Solomon Islands Football Federation (SIFF). “We only have one venue to play in the national futsal championship. Unfortunately, we do not have access to the same facilities as other countries to prepare for our selection for the World Cup.”
To remedy this, the FIFA Forward program has helped the Solomon Islands federation in this regard. “We are grateful to FIFA for the help they have given us to enable us to carry out our activities. We have thus been able to fulfill our commitments in terms of the development of football in our country,” said Paia.
The Kurukuru plan to attend a training camp in Australia and if possible in Europe before traveling to Lithuania. “The Covid-19 hit us hard and put several players out of work,” said Francis Lafai, assistant coach of the Solomon Islands. “Without the support of the aid plan, we would not be able to organize these courses,” he concludes.