HONIARA, 06 AUGUST 2020 (ABC)—-A successful mission to Australia by two highly promising young Solomon Islands soccer players has inspired a group of ex-pats to start work on setting up an academy on home soil.
Opportunities for island players outside their home countries are still few and far between, so the aim of the Solomons initiative is to provide high class coaching and facilities locally.
That way their national teams will benefit and more players will put themselves in the overseas shop window.
Earlier this year Raphael Lea’i and his international team mate Leon Kofana spent a month in Australia training at Melbourne Victory’s academy, and Director Drew Sherman was impressed.
“My understanding is they will be relocating to Australia and if that happens then of course, we’d have another look at them, they both acquitted himself very well.”
Brisbane based sports agent Keith Sanga was a mentor for Lea’i and Kofana during their stay in Australia and their success sparked an idea.
“Doing it one or two athletes at a time or trying to find pathways abroad is really slow, and so we thought about how do we reimagine some systemic change.”
“We look at a football campus or some sort of academy that provides an opportunity to start that conversation when kids are ready to develop and then look at ways to create overseas opportunities as well,” he said.
Now Sanga is gathering a group of fellow ex-pats together with an interest in developing soccer in the Solomons, and the desire to put some money into the project.
“We shouldn’t just leave it to the governing body, so we’ve decided to approach local business houses as well as software experts, people who are establishing their careers either in Australia and New Zealand and have the psychological investment to see development back home.”
So if the Solomons soccer academy becomes a reality, might a leading overseas team be prepared to get involved, and maybe puts its name on the front door? In Melbourne Victory’s case Drew Sherman says that unlikely, but that doesn’t mean the club wouldn’t be interested in helping in other ways.
However Felipe Vega Arango, the Spaniard who was Technical Director for Solomon Islands Football Federation until last year, and oversaw the historic run to the 2019 FIFA Under 17 World Cup finals believes clubs in his country could well be prepared to invest in a Pacific academy.
“For example, the professional team of the city where I am, Gijon, they have academies in Africa, and a team like Atletico Madrid they have academies pretty much all over the world. And presumably, if that kind of connection were to be established, then the likelihood is that the club would make some sort of financial investment in the Solomons Academy.
But while money is obviously essential, Keith Sanga says finance is actually not the main obstacle to success. “The biggest challenge for us is the land. Over 90% of the land is customary, and so there’s limited opportunities to get access to that. But if we use that as the deciding factor, whether or not to pursue the project, we’d probably not even bother, but it’s something that we’re willing to discuss with those who have access to that land,” he said…. PACNEWS

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