Monday 31 July 2023, 05:25

Gianni Infantino visits Tonga to see FIFA Forward projects and discuss football development

  • The FIFA President met the Prime Minister, the Honourable Hu'akavameiliku

  • FIFA Forward is supporting football development on both the main and outer islands

  • TFA headquarters was used as a refuge following the tsunami in 2022

Gianni Infantino has visited the Kingdom of Tonga where FIFA Forward development funds are being used to build football infrastructure both on the main island of Tongatapu and in more remote parts of the country. Accompanied by Tonga Football Association (TFA) President Lord Ve’ehala, the FIFA President met the Prime Minister, the Honourable Hu'akavameiliku, and visited the TFA headquarters. “I’m very happy to be in Tonga today. It’s great to see the fantastic work, that is done by Lord Ve’ehela and his whole team at the Tonga Football Association, to provide young girls and boys a chance to dream about pursuing our beautiful sport of football,” Gianni Infantino said. “We are here to care about those that nobody really cares about. We are here to be with those who are living in the remotest areas of the world, and about those who never give up and want to live their dreams. We are here to give everyone a chance. We are here for that, and we are proud to be here in Oceania,” the FIFA President added. “The whole Pacific is celebrating women, is celebrating the FIFA Women’s World Cup, is celebrating football. We give dreams, we give opportunities, and to see the smiles on the faces of these girls and boys as well; these are the World Cups that Tonga is winning every day and I’m proud to be witnessing that.”

The TFA headquarters is one of the most resilient buildings in the country and was used as a refuge for some of the local population after the tsunami which struck Tonga in January 2022.

FIFA Forward is supporting the building of a new TFA Stadium which is due for completion next year and is being constructed with natural disaster resilience and recovery, and accessibility, in mind. FIFA Forward has also helped the TFA open a technical centre on the island of Vavu’a as part of the country’s plan to grow and develop the game outside the capital Nuku’alofa.

Future projects include a technical centre in the Ha'apai group of islands and a technical centre on the island of ‘Eua. FIFA Forward will also finance the participation of the men’s and women’s national teams in the Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands later this year.

Tonga was the first country in Oceania to adopt FIFA’s Football for Schools programme which seeks to make football more accessible to both boys and girls around the world by incorporating football activities into the education system. The Hon. Hu'akavameiliku thanked the FIFA President for his visit. “It is definitely a clear indication to us of the strong commitment of FIFA to support football, not just in Tonga but the Pacific in general,” he said. “We are very grateful that you are not just focusing here in Nukuʻalofa, but also on the other islands.”

FIFA Deputy Secretary General – Football, Mattias Grafström, Senior Football Advisor and FIFA World Cup 1998™ winner Youri Djorkaeff and FIFA Legends Houssine Kharja and Tim Cahill were part of the FIFA delegation. As announced at the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Congress on 19 July, the FIFA President is visiting a number of member associations in the region to witness the progress which is being made.

The FIFA President has already attended FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ matches in every venue in Aotearoa New Zealand and, following current first round of visits to the Pacific Islands, he will attend group stage matches in Australia.