Sunday 13 August 2023, 13:30

Gianni Infantino visits Papua New Guinea and talks about developing talent in the country

  • Papua New Guinea Football Association headquarters was inaugurated by the FIFA President

  • Gianni Infantino also talked about future projects to be funded by FIFA Forward

  • FIFA President specifically spoke about the importance of developing talent in rural areas

Gianni Infantino has visited Port Moresby where he opened the new headquarters of the Papua New Guinea Football Association (PNGFA) and discussed ways of developing football in the country with its leaders, including Prime Minister James Marape. “This is a football country and I would like to congratulate the government, the Papua New Guinea Football Association led by President John Kapi Natto, and everyone involved for the fantastic work being done to provide young girls and boys the opportunity to pursue their dreams through playing our beautiful game,” said the FIFA President.

Mr Infantino also stressed that the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ belonged to the whole region. “This celebration of women’s football is the celebration of Oceania’s World Cup, and the success belongs to everyone in the Pacific,” he said.

During his visit, Mr Infantino also met the Minister for Sports and National Gaming Don Polye and Mr Kapi Natto. 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 new PNGFA headquarters was built with support from the FIFA Forward programme, which has also helped finance several other football projects in the country including costs for the Papua New Guinea women's team. With the increase in funding for the current cycle of FIFA Forward, further projects are in the pipeline. Mr Infantino, who later played in a friendly football match against a Papua New Guinea Legends team, spoke of the importance of developing football in the whole country, including the rural areas. "The talent is there, and we need to get them playing not just rugby but also football which is the sport that makes us all dream,” he said. “It’s easy to play. We need to do this together, Prime Minister, as a partnership, as a team. You are a big country, and you have to become one of the leading countries in Oceania, in the Pacific area."

Mr Infantino also talked about the future Oceania Professional League which the OFC is planning to start from 2025. "This will give opportunities to everyone, and we need to create opportunities here," he said. "If players can grow here, they can go overseas, to Australia and Europe, but we need to plant the seeds here and give every talent a chance." Papua New Guinea 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 Kapi Natto said the PNGFA planned to build new facilities in all four regions of the country with FIFA Forward support. “FIFA Forward funding is very, very important - if we have talents and we do not have facilities, we cannot develop a new generation,” he said. “This Forward funding that comes to us is to build better facilities, better playing fields, and provide a better training environment for all the young people so they can come and learn as much as they can about football.”