- This weekend, Fiji inaugurates a new national women’s championship
- The national team reached their best level in qualifying for France 2019
- This FIFA-backed league will boost the Fijian selection for the 2023 qualifiers
Fiji often conjures up calming images of palm trees, golden beaches and idyllic warm waters. This tropical paradise does exist, but the Melanesian nation also boasts a surprisingly vibrant football and sports culture.
Fiji has undoubtedly been at the forefront of island football in the Pacific. The Melanesian nation was the first – and long the only – in the Pacific to compete in Oceania’s qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup ™, alongside Australia and New Zealand. His astonishing 1988 victory against the formidable Socceroos, in qualifying for the World Cup, on the frog infested ground of the Prince Charles Park stadium in Nadi, belongs to the legendary exploits of the national sport.
But today the foundations of a new chapter for Fijian football are being laid, and the first signs are very encouraging. Women’s football had a historic moment this weekend with the inauguration of the Women’s Super League, funded by FIFA and made up of six teams. FIFA’s commitment also includes the provision of equipment, funds and training for coaches, as well as a recently approved grant for women’s football.
This excitement is another indicator of the fallout from last year’s announcement that the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup ™ would take place in the region. OFC is guaranteed a spot in the new global play-off event that will take place just before the Australia / New Zealand-based tournament.
Two years ago, Fiji achieved the best result in their history in qualifying for the Women’s World Cup by reaching the continental final against New Zealand. Until the end of 2018, it was Papua New Guinea that exercised supremacy in the Pacific.
Today, as the qualifications for 2023 are due to begin next year, national coach Marika Rodu is investing heavily in the new competition. “The objective is to see all the teams adopt the same playing philosophy so that the fans can enjoy watching them,” says Rodu.
“It gives us the opportunity to see the weaknesses of the teams and the players. We will let the coach know and this is how we will succeed in bringing together the best for the tournament. The players must be trained and confronted with the competitive context. . This will have a positive impact on the performance of the national team. “
Naziah Ali, Board member of the Fiji Football Association and participant in the FIFA Women’s Football Leadership Program, believes it is timely to give Fijian women’s football a new lease of life after two years of the Cup of the Women’s World Cup in 2023. “Since the last Women’s World Cup in France, the world now sees women’s football in a more positive light and we intend to take advantage of this momentum when it comes to hosting the tournament in our region,” said does she at FIFA.com.
“We not only have the opportunity to qualify for the play-offs, but we will also have a lot to gain when the world turns its gaze to the Pacific. As a region where the footprint of women’s football is small compared to the ‘Europe or America, with more attention and media coverage, we hope we can get more women and girls to participate and get more sponsors to invest in this sport. “
Ali explains that the Fiji Football Association has just approved a strategic plan that emphasizes the development of women’s football. “There is significant funding to grow women’s football and in the future we would like to improve everything, the game, the teams, the players, the coaches and the administrative sector,” she continues.
“We have come a long way since our debut in the early 1990s. Moving from an unranked position a few years ago to 65th place in the FIFA Women’s World Ranking is a good start for a small nation like France. ours and we are ambitious in our prospect of qualifying for the next Women’s World Cup or the next. “
“We hope that young Fijian girls can embark on the epic of the Women’s World Cup and that they will draw inspiration from it to become footballers,” she concluded.