Monday 14 August 2023, 12:45

Gianni Infantino talks about talent development during visit to the Solomon Islands

  • Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare met the FIFA President

  • Gianni Infantino visited a new headquarters for the Solomon Islands Football Federation

  • Solomon Islands is planning to build development centres around the country by 2026

Gianni Infantino has visited the Solomon Islands to see for himself the work that is being done to develop football in the Pacific Island nation. The first FIFA President to visit the country, Mr Infantino was shown a new headquarters for the Solomon Islands Football Federation (SIFF) and discussed future FIFA Forward projects and talent development with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

Describing the Solomon Islands as “the Brazil of Oceania” because of its passion for football, Gianni Infantino praised the work he had seen and said it would lead to a brighter future. “I am very happy to be in the Solomon Islands today. It's fantastic to see young girls and boys playing football,” he said. “This is a football crazy country and together with the government and those at the Solomon Islands Football Federation, led by President Donald Marahare, we want to provide an opportunity through football for young girls and boys of this country to fulfil their dreams.”

Mr Infantino stressed that the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ was being celebrated in the whole of Oceania. “The ongoing FIFA Women's World Cup is the most inclusive and greatest ever because it belongs to the entire Pacific region, and it is inspiring people all over the world,” he said.

During their meeting, the Prime Minister committed to allocating a stadium in the country to women’s football following a request from Gianni Infantino.

Mr Infantino began his tour by watching an U-14 Championship match, part of the highly successful SIFF Iumi Play Programme which features 18 boys’ and girls’ teams from around the country and is a key part of the SIFF’s plans to develop football. Started in 2021, it is established in every part of the country and has introduced structured training to young players.

The FIFA President was then taken to the new SIFF headquarters, which is 80 percent complete and features two full-sized football pitches, one futsal pitch, two beach soccer pitches and an academy. It is one of the Pacific region’s single biggest government-funded football projects and has also enjoyed strong collaboration from the SIFF with FIFA Forward funding a gym, the IT system and other equipment.

The SIFF has also committed to the construction of five provincial technical development centres by the end of 2026 using FIFA Forward funds which will also support the national team, improve domestic competitions and upgrade the Lawson Tama Stadium. The Solomon Islands has applied to join the FIFA Talent Development Scheme in which FIFA offers guidance to member associations on how to find, develop and coach talent.

Mr Infantino then took part in a friendly match against a team of Solomon Islands Legends at the Lawson Tama Stadium, the traditional home of the Solomon Islands national team. The FIFA delegation included FIFA Vice-President and Oceania Football Association (OFC) President Lambert Maltock, FIFA Deputy Secretary General – Football Mattias Grafström, FIFA Referees Committee Chairman Pierluigi Collina, Senior Football Advisor Youri Djorkaeff and two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup™-winning coach Jill Ellis, who is also FIFA Technical Advisory Group leader for women’s football. The Solomon Islands have qualified for the last four editions of the FIFA Futsal World Cup™. They have also appeared at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup™ on five occasions and made their debut at the FIFA U-17 World Cup™ in 2019.