Thursday 08 June 2023, 14:00

Pacific legacy goals in place ahead of Australia & New Zealand 2023

  • First FIFA Women’s World Cup to be held in the Southern Hemisphere set to kick-off next month

  • FIFA, OFC, Football Australia and New Zealand Football all contributing to long-term legacy in the Pacific

  • Inaugural winner of the new OFC Women’s Champions League will be determined this weekend

The first-ever champions of the OFC Women’s Champions League are set to be crowned on Saturday in what will be a landmark moment for women’s football in the Pacific. Partly FIFA-funded, the tournament in Papua New Guinea is another example of the world governing body’s broad-ranging commitment to women’s football. It is also follows Australia and New Zealand’s plan to aid women’s football in the region as part of their respective legacy programs before, and after, co-hosting the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup™. This year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup is the first to be held in the region, and follows Papua New Guinea’s historic hosting of the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. Women’s football is also high on the agenda for FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura on this week’s trip to Vanuatu and New Caledonia, ahead of an extensive visit to Australia and New Zealand prior to next month’s tournament.

Supporters hold the Papua New Guinea flag at the OFC Women's Champions League in Port Moresby.

Five teams competed for the inaugural OFC Women’s Champions League title - Labasa Women FC (Fiji), Kiwi FC (Samoa), Koloale FC (Solomon Islands), AS Academy Féminine (New Caledonia) and local side Hekari United FC. The Oceania Football Confederation is using the FIFA Women’s Football Competitions Fund to cover accommodation and meals for the teams participating in the tournament. Papua New Guinea, who boast a strong tradition in women’s football, will enjoy long-term benefit with funds also contributing to the upgrade of the training venues. It is part of FIFA’s concerted aims to develop football in every corner of the globe through its various programmes, such as FIFA Forward, FIFA Women’s Football Strategy, FIFA Football for Schools and more.

A strong commitment to women’s football has seen the Oceania Football Confederation deliver tangible off-field growth in recent years. OFC’s ‘All In’ strategy was launched in 2021 and aims to deliver development, growth, sustainability and professionalism in Oceania. “We’ve also developed a legacy where we’re really trying to leverage off the momentum and the excitement that the Women’s World Cup will bring to our region,” said Emma Evans, Head of OFC Women’s Football. “And I think one of the things we’ve really tried to do here is take the Women’s World Cup to the Pacific. We want it to be visible. “We want to break down the barriers that they have to access games at the highest possible level. So, for us, one of the very first, I guess, goals, is to make the World Cup visible. So, we’re creating fan zones and hubs across the Pacific. “For many men and women across the region, it will [mean] seeing football played at a global level for the first time. They’ll get to, I guess, understand [that] professional women’s football exists, and it’s thriving globally. “Hopefully, that not only inspires young girls and young boys to play, but also lets parents see that women’s football can be a career pathway for their daughters, for their granddaughters, and that it’s something that they can support. These girls might end up playing professionally oversees, and it can bring money back to their family and communities as well.”

Football Australia and Football New Zealand both have strong legacy plans in place encompassing the Pacific. New Zealand Football and Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) have working collaboratively to achieve a shared vision and greater outcomes for football across the region, with the former hosting several continental competitions and welcoming players from the Pacific in the process. Football Australia hosted a four-team tournament featuring three of Oceania’s women’s national teams in the Pacific Women’s Four Nations Tournament last November 2022, while Asia-Pacific’s best para footballers will be feature in the first edition of the women’s 2023 IFCPF Asia-Oceania Championships later this year.