Solomon Islands Football Federation President Willie Lae took a break from the OFC U-16 Championship yesterday to help officially open the FIFA Exchange Programme Pilot Project – Youth Football workshop in Honiara.

The three-day workshop has brought together technical directors and/or youth development officers from Fiji, Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands along with FIFA Youth and Grassroots Football Managers Gorge Diaz-Cidoncha Garcia and Phillipe Zimmerman to talk all things youth football.

“First of all, welcome everyone to Solomon Islands,” Lai said.

“It’s a pleasure to welcome all of you from Oceania and especially FIFA to come here for the first pilot project for exchange programme for youth development.

“The world is changing, but Oceania hasn’t changed so much for the last 10-20 years. It’s always New Zealand, New Zealand, New Zealand – lucky we have two spots otherwise always New Zealand.

“You are the main technical persons in Oceania and it’s up to us – up to you actually – to ensure that we change the dynamic of this region.”

Lai believes that change in the region is on the horizon and it is workshops like this week’s one in Honiara, which will help guide that change.

“I think that we have an obligation, whether you are a technical director or development officer, or a president like me in Solomon Islands, to do more for football in this region,” he said.

“I hope you will enjoy your stay here and will two to three days of fruitful discussions and let’s take Oceania forward together.”

OFC technical department representative Paul Toohey said hosting this pilot project in a nation as passionate for football as Solomon Islands is, is exciting.

“It’s great for me to be back in Solomon Islands, it’s always a great place to come and particularly special at this time with the tournament on and the local team doing so well,” he said.

“To Willie, thank you for hosting us. As I said, it’s always great to come here and I think you really understand the importance of youth development.

“It’s a big focus for OFC over the next cycle leading up to the World Cup in 2026, so it’s good to come here to a place where football is a big passion.”

The FIFA Exchange Programme Pilot Project – Youth Football is being held in Honiara from 17-19 September 2018.

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