FIFA boss sees passion for football in several Pacific nations

FIFA President Gianni Infantino in the Cook Islands during the FIFA Women's World Cup Photo: Jaiah Arai

World football boss Gianni Infantino has visited several Pacific nations and territories, making the most of his time in Oceania while overseeing the Women’s World Cup.

He visited the Cook Islands on Friday local time.

Cook Islands Football Association spokesperson Sammy Mataroa said he thought Infantino was surprised by the passion for the game on the islands and extended his short trip by an hour.

He said children were lining up for photograph opportunities with the FIFA President.

In Samoa, Infantino saw first hand the development which has taken place with the support of the FIFA Forward programme.

He was shown the Apia Park project where, with support from FIFA Forward and the government, Football Federation of Samoa is converting unused land and building new football pitches.

The project, which is 80 percent complete, will comprise new office spaces for the FFS, a covered futsal court that can host regional competitions, and two full-sized pitches.

And in American Samoa, Infantino discussed ways in which FIFA can help the territory improve its facilities and develop football.

Infantino met Tonga’s Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni in Nuku’alofa on Monday to discuss FIFA’s strategies in Tonga – including a new $8 million stadium project.

The plan is to build football academies on Tongatapu and the outer islands as well as a new stadium project, which is expected to be completed in June next year.

The facilities may also be used as safety evacuation centres.

Infantino said all nations are important to FIFA.

“Tonga is as big as Brazil, USA or China, for FIFA, and with the FIFA Women’s World Cup currently held in Oceania, it is important for Tonga to be part of that celebration.”

Infantino began his Pacific journey in Tahiti before the start of the World Cup and is aiming to visit all 11 Oceania Football Confederation member nations.

Senior Football Advisor and FIFA World Cup 1998 winner Youri Djorkaeff, FIFA Legend Houssine Kharja and Deputy General Secretary – Football, Mattias Grafström, were also part of the FIFA delegation.

Source: RNZ