Editorial comment – Important lessons

Silimone Ravonokula, right, battles for the ball against his New Zealand counterparts during the OFC under-17 semi-final clash at the HFC Bank Stadium in Laucala Bay, Suva on Wednesday night. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

New Zealand are through to the Under 17 World Cup in Peru. They defeated New Caledonia 1-0 to get a ticket for the top competition.

New Caledonia are also going to Peru as the second top side from the competition.

It wasn’t an easy path though for the Kiwis who defeated Fiji 4-1 in their semi-final clash to enter the final of the Oceania Football Confederation competition in Suva.

Fiji later succumbed 0-3 to Tahiti in the 3rd and 4th play-off. Congratulations are in order for the Kiwis and New Caledonia who will represent Oceania.

At the end of the competition, we call on the powers that be to make changes that will be good for the development of soccer in Fiji.

It must start at the grassroot level, and that means changing the mindset at the lower levels of the age groups.

It means doing away with the kick and chase that has been a hallmark of our game for some time now. That will mean emphasis on the development of skills right from the lower age groups.

It will mean encouraging a structured game, nurturing passing skills, ball control, and promoting exposure to more top level competition for our youngsters.

That will eventually mean a commitment by the powers that be for more game time at the age group level against top quality opposition.

We need our youngsters to be exposed to sides like New Zealand and Australia on a regular basis. And that will mean the willingness by the powers that be to encourage this.

We look to the Kiwis and New Caledonia to play their best games at the highest level of the sport. We also look up to the age group coaches to take a lesson from the recent games in Suva.

NZ were structured. They played the field to great effect. Their passes were accurate, they stayed composed, created gaps, and took their chances when they could.

Compare that to our reliance on kicking high balls and hoping a player in a white shirt would get to it and create an opportunity upfront.

The chances were, if that failed, the opposition were regaining possession. Something has to change, and it must happen at the age group level.

The Kiwis have proven it can be done. New Caledonia stretched them to the limit in the final.

However, in the end, when it mattered, the Kiwis remained composed, and got the win, and the plane tickets to Peru! On the homefront, we look up to the powers that be to implement changes and get our game to the next level. We have the players who are able to make that happen.

The onus will be on the governing body to show willingness to embrace change, and move our game forward.

We acknowledge the national U17 side, and say thank you for doing your best against a top field. Vinaka!

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