“Winston Reid and the fighting underdog spirit could bring New Zealand to Brazil”, says Jesse Edge

Immagine Jesse (from the left) playing against the United States at the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup. (c) FIFA.com

It’s not that common to see a young player from New Zealand trying to make a name for himself in Italy, a country not very well known for its relationships with the “land of the long white cloud” when it comes to football. But this means little for Vicenza Calcio young gun Jesse Edge, who wants to be the first Kiwi of a long series to build a tradition of New Zealand footballers in the Mediterranean land.

An 18-year-old with experience at two youth World Cups, Jesse is considered by many as for the future and is part of the much-claimed golden generation which could bring smiles and success to the football lovers of the country for the years to come.

Your move to Vicenza seemed to have come out of nothing, as many thought you would have signed for an English clubs after your trials! Tell us about how it happened.

I had a trial in England at Birmingham City which fell through in the end. My now agent Stefano Tigani and Fillippo Contorno were talking with my manager Declan Edge and I about a trial here at Vicenza Calcio. The coaches liked what I had to offer and it all went from there.

According to you, which are the biggest differences between youth football in Italy and New Zealand?

I can’t judge really because I have played men’s football in New Zealand since the age of 14. The standard here is good and I am here to keep progressing myself as a player and moving forward. This is a very good experience for me and already I have learnt a lot.

You are the second New Zealander who has played for Vicenza in recent times, after Liam Graham spent two years in their youth system from 2010 to 2012. Do you think this growing relationship between the club and New Zealand could open the doors for other youngsters who aim to play in a top football nation in Europe?

Many young New Zealand players aspire to play in Europe. However, there is limited opportunities for young Kiwis to come to Europe. I hope that other young NZ footballers can become motivated by seeing what is possible for them if they put in the hard work and dedication.

Why would you recommend Italy as a possible destination for New Zealand players?

The football culture in Italy is incredible and the fans are very passionate about following their clubs. It is a great experience with the style of play and the atmosphere of the games here is second to none. It’s one of the best football countries in the world.

What have you enjoyed most of Italy in these few months you’ve spent there?

The people here have been very good to me. They are all very understanding and help me a lot with me speaking very little Italian. The coaching staff and team mates at the club have made it a good experience for me so far and I have learnt a lot from them. Also the gelato is very good!

What’s your target of the season?

My target for this season is to improve myself as a player and prepare for first team football. And also make an impact straight away for the team and play well.

Many of the players from the team that reached the round of 16 in the 2011 U-17 World Cup are now playing at professional level with prestigious clubs in Europe, such as Tim Payne at Blackburn, Bill Tuiloma at Olympique Marseille, Cameron Howieson with Burnley, Scott Basalaj with Partick Thistle and now you in Italy. Do you think that many of that squad (you included) could very well represent the backbone of the next generation of All Whites, maybe starting from the 2018 World Cup?

There is a group of very good young players coming through out of New Zealand at the moment. I think there is a very good chance that a good chunk of that 2011 U-17 World Cup team will kick on and play for the All Whites in the 2018 World Cup. Cam, Tim and Bill are already making their All Whites debut.

New Zealand is playing a crucial play-off with Mexico in November. Give us your final score, and tell which could be the key factor for the two-legged tie that could the All Whites a ticket to Brazil.

I think for New Zealand it will be two very tough fixtures as Mexico will be a quality opponent. Although in football everyone knows that anything can happen in two 90 minute games. I think that Mexico will be to tough for New Zealand at the Azteca Arena and will win 1-0, but I think at the fortress, Westpac Stadium, New Zealand will bring it back and win 2-0 (2-1 aggregate). The key factor for New Zealand will be Winston Reid and always that fighting underdog spirit.

We want to reach the semi-finals at the SEA Games: interview with Football Federation Cambodia (FFC) technical director May Tola

The FFC (Football Federation Cambodia) official logo

Stagnation is the most appropriate word to define the status quo of Cambodian football. The men’s national team of the former Khmer Empire has lost all the matches played in 2012 and 2013, and its most recent results have been a 0-7 thumping by Turkmenistan and a 0-8 annihilation from Southeast Asian counterparts Philippines. Also, Cambodia’s position in the FIFA Ranking is currently at 199, the team’s lowest ever.

However, the governing body of local football, the FFC (Football Federation Cambodia), is eager to reverse the trend and give disappointed Cambodian fans something to cheer about in the near future, especially by growing up local talents who could help the national team’s cause.

We spoke to FFC technical director May Tola to discover what’s in store for Cambodian football in the years to come.

How is Cambodian football progressing at grassroots level? Does the FFC have any plan to increase the number of areas where it’s currently played?

Grassroots football in Cambodia is increasing popularity and it’s played more and more by community, schools as well as NGOs. We see that every year, more football activities/events have been organized by the aforementioned institutions to provide opportunities for children and people to take part in football. In our long term development of football, grassroots is one of our top priorities. We will be increasing activities mainly at provincial level and at schools to promote the game among children and adults.

Cambodia has a great percentage of youth people. Do you think their interest is growing in these last years?

Yes, there are more youth teams and players who play football officially and unofficially each year.

Where do you think Cambodian football should improve most in this moment?

We will have to reform our competitions structure and format to provide more opportunities to play football nation-wide. In this moment, because of limited infrastructures (stadiums, pitches etc), football is more organized and played in Phnom Penh, while there is a much greater number of youth footballers in all provinces and districts. We need to have more coaches, volunteers, teachers to be football educators and leaders in our community.

Which are the chances of seeing overseas-based half-Cambodian players, such as Chhunly Pagenburg of FSV Frankfurt and Colorado Rapids’ Davy Armstrong, wearing the national team’s shirt in the future?

We have been contacting Chhunly and Davy Armstrong for the last few years, but it seems that they had to give priority to their professional career in Germany and USA. We always welcome overseas-based players for Cambodia.

Do you think there are Cambodian players who could play abroad at professional level? If yes, could you name some of them?

There are some Cambodians from Australia, France that came for a trial but they have not been successful. As I don’t have much information about others, I can’t say who can or cannot play for the country. But, the fact that there are some players currently in professional leagues such as Chhunly and Davy Armstrong, means that they have good quality.

Which are Cambodia targets for the upcoming SEA Games in Myanmar?

We have to be realistic, if we set our target for the last four [the semi-finals] of the tournament and we manage to do it, then it would be an enormous victory, [it would be] historical and also a big surprise, which could always happen in football. Any target lower than this, won’t make any impression.

Why did the team perform so poorly in the last qualifiers for the 2012 Suzuki Cup and 2014 Challenge Cup? Which were the biggest problems and weaknesses in your opinion?

The problem is the quality of our league (players’ performances, level of coaching, duration of the league), which is still low compared to the [Southeast Asian] region. Another problem was the preparation of the team, which was very short and in poor conditions, and all this made the players’ spirit not very tough and stable.

Which has been the influence of politics in Cambodian football in the past? And what about now?

The influences of politics in Cambodian football have been more positive than negative. The positive thing is that politicians give more support financially, with materials and infrastructures which are needed for football. However, sometimes politicians use football for their own individual interests, circles, parties, but not in the name of the nation which should be the motto of the game.

What are your thoughts about ASEAN football in general? Do you think the region is improving in the right direction?

ASEAN football has been an additional platform to improve politics, culture, solidarity and of course football technical development as well as economic interests of its members. These benefits have been stable or gradually improving in last years. However, recent political chaos in the world from FIFA to AFC and all the other continents has influenced ASEAN spirit and solidarity. But I’m confident that, by believing in the good nature of experienced people in ASEAN now and in the future, they can agree with each other for the development of the game and share it with all the members.

By Christian Rizzitelli

Some videos:

Highlights of Cambodia’s 4-2 win over Laos in the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers on June 29, 2011,, the team’s last competitive victory:

Cambodia’s last defeat against the Philippines:

“Stiamo lentamente attirando interesse”: intervista con Charles Mitchell, presidente della federazione delle Palau (PFA)

Il piccolo arcipelago delle Palau non è certamente noto ai più per i suoi exploit calcistici, non avendo mai partecipato ad alcun torneo organizzato dalla FIFA o in nessun altra competizione ufficiale. Tuttavia, recentemente la federazione locale, la Palau Football Association (PFA), ha presentato alcuni progetti ambiziosi che potrebbero dar inizio ad un primo, vero movimento calcistico sulle isole. Nonostante alcune difficoltà oggettive, come una popolazione di soli 20,000 abitanti e il continuo confronto con lo sport dominante sulle Palau, il baseball, il presidente Charles Mitchell e lo staff della PFA sono fiduciosi che il futuro prossimo del calcio sulle isole riserverà molte più sorprese di quanto ci si possa aspettare.

Asianoceanianfootball lo ha intervistato per scoprire i piani futuri, gli obiettivi e l’attuale progresso del calcio sulle piccole e remote – ma non demotivate – Palau.

Quando fu introdotto il calcio sulle Palau per la prima volta?

Per quanto ne sappia, il calcio fu organizzato e giocato per la prima volta negli anni novanta, ma ho sentito anche di partite di calcio giocate all’inizio degli anni settanta. La PFA venne formata ufficialmente nel 2002, e diventò una federazione posta sotto l’egida del comitato olimpico delle Palau (Palau National Olympic Committee).

Quante possibilità ci sono di vedere la nazionale delle Palau ai prossimi Giochi del Pacifico e ai Giochi di Micronesia?

C’è una grande possibilità di giocare ai Giochi del Pacifico. Per quanto riguarda i Giochi della Micronesia, dipende se il paese organizzatore lo aggiungerà [il calcio] al programma. Il problema più grande per le isole micronesiane è mettere insieme funzionari adeguati, strutture per giocare e strumenti [necessari].

Quanto sono vicine le Palau a diventare un membro effettivo dell’EAFF, la federazione di calcio dell’Asia dell’Est?

In questo momento, le Palau si trovano in una fase di stallo con l’EAFF. Noi mandammo una richiesta nel 2008 ma da allora non abbiamo ricevuto alcuna risposta. La PFA non possiede un contatto diretto con l’EAFF.

La nazionale delle Tuvalu, un’altra nazione del Pacifico non iscritta alla FIFA, recentemente è migliorata molto grazie all’aiuto di una fondazione di volontari olandesi muniti di tanta passione, e ora le Tuvalu sono vicine come non mai a diventare un membro ufficiale della FIFA. Pensi che un aiuto del genere proveniente dall’estero possa rivelarsi utile anche per le Palau? E dov’è che la federazione ha più bisogno d’aiuto?

Sì, penso che un aiuto del genere possa risultare utile. Anche se, in un certo senso, è una sorta di terno al lotto perché la maggior parte di queste fondazioni dovrebbe fornirci cose che non possiamo permetterci come i biglietti per gli aerei e i posti in cui alloggiare. È molto difficile acquistare tutto questo visto che la PFA è composta interamente da volontari e non ha fondi a sufficienza. Direi che il nostro più grande bisogno riguarda le risorse umane e il personale per l’amministrazione.

Qual è il posto riservato al calcio nella gerarchia sportiva delle Palau?

Il calcio nelle Palau è attualmente in fondo alla gerarchia degli sport ma lentamente sta attirando interesse.

Ci potresti dare una presentazione delle squadre che competono nella Palau Soccer League, il campionato palauano?

Tutte le informazioni sul campionato palauano possono essere trovare sul sito ufficiale della federazione, www.palaufootball.sportingpulse.net

Visto che non siete ancora un membro della FIFA, pensi che le Palau possano giocare in alcuni tornei riservati esclusivamente alle nazionali non iscritte alla FIFA, come la VIVA World Cup o gli Island Games?

Noi lo speriamo, ma è ancora da definire.

Quanto è importante lo sport nello stile di vita della gente palauana?

Gli sport giocano un ruolo importante nella cultura delle Palau. Lo sport aiuta a farsi un carattere e fornisce gli strumenti per diventare un cittadino produttivo nella società.

Quali sono gli obiettivi primari della PFA per i prossimi mesi?

I nostri obiettivi primari sono di continuare ad organizzare regolarmente il campionato nazionale e dopo [di creare] dei centri sportivi scolastici e un campionato giovanile. C’è anche la volontà di introdurre il calcio nelle scuole superiori, ma [un piano] non è ancora stato stabilito ufficialmente.

Di Christian Rizzitelli

“We’re slowly gaining interest”: Interview with Palau Football Association (PFA) president Charles Mitchell

The tiny archipelago of Palau may be very little known for its footballing achievements, having never competed in any FIFA tournament nor in any other official competition. But there are ambitious plans, mainly from the local federation, the Palau Football Association (PFA), that could make the future much more different from what we’ve seen so far. Despite having to face some difficulties, such as a restrict population of only 20,000 and the local domination of other sports, especially baseball, almost worshipped as a religion on Palau, president Charles Mitchell and the PFA staff are confident that a proper footballing culture could be set up on the islands in the near future.

Asianoceanianfootball spoke to him to discover future plans, targets and the current progress of football on the remote and tiny – but not demotivated – Palau.

When football was played first in Palau?

As far as I know, football was organized and played in the late 90’s but have heard of football being introduced and played in the early 70’s. In 2002 PFA was officially formed and became a federation under the Palau National Olympic Committee.

How many chances are there to see Palau national football team playing the next South Pacific Games? And Micronesian Games?

There is a great chance to compete in the South Pacific Games. As for the Micronesian Games, it depends on if the host country will add to their program. The biggest challenge for most of the Micronesian islands is putting forth proper officials, playing facilities, and equipment.

How close is Palau from becoming a full member of the EAFF?

At this moment, Palau is at a stand still with the EAFF. An application was submitted in 2008 and no response since. The PFA has no direct contact with the EAFF.

Tuvalu national football team, another non-FIFA member Pacific nation, has improved a lot in last two years thanks to the help of a Dutch foundation created by passioned volunteers in the Netherlands, and now they are very close to get their FIFA membership. Do you think this kind of help from abroad could help Palau? And where Palauan football needs help most?

I do believe this assistance could help. Though in a way it’s kind of a “catch 22” because most of these organizations need for us to provide items we can’t afford such as: plane tickets and accommodations. It’s very difficult to acquire these items being that the PFA is made up of all volunteers and lack of funding. I’d say our biggest need would be human resources and administration.

Which is the state of football in Palau sport hierarchy?

Palau football is currently at the low end of the hierarchy but slowly gaining interest.

Can you give us a presentation of the teams competing in the Palau Soccer League?

All the info can be found on the PFA official website, www.palaufootball.sportingpulse.net

As you are still to become a FIFA member, do you think Palau national team could play in some non-FIFA international tournaments, such as VIVA World Cup or the Islands Games?

We hope, but it is yet to be determined.

How much important are sports in Palauan people’s culture?

Sports play a big role in the Palauan culture. Sports help create character and provide the tools to become a productive citizen of society.

Which are the PFA current primary goals for next months?

Our primary goals are to continue the sustainability of our Adult League and after school clinics as well as create a youth league. There is also an interest to introduce the sport to high schools, but yet to be official.

By Christian Rizzitelli

All’alba di una nuova era: la rinascita del Myanmar dopo cinquant’anni di oblio

Copyright (c) to AFF Suzuki Cup

Il Myanmar degli ultimi tempi è una squadra coraggiosa, volenterosa e tanto affamata, come le numerose tigri che popolano le sue lussureggianti e sterminate foreste. Il paese ha voglia di riscatto, dopo oltre cinquant’anni passati nell’oblio e nel dimenticatoio del calcio continentale, del quale un tempo è stata tra le massime e più brillanti esponenti.

Naturalmente, la gente di quella che fino a poco più di vent’anni fa era nota a tutti come Birmania ha avuto ben altro di cui preoccuparsi in quel travagliato periodo, che dello scarso successo della propria nazionale di calcio da metà del secolo scorso in poi. La spietata dittatura militare sotto la quale il popolo birmano è stato costretto a vivere dal 1962 ha oppresso ogni libertà individuale ed ha impedito ogni iniziativa che non provenisse dagli alti ranghi del regime in qualsiasi ambito, da quelli politico ed economico sino ad ogni aspetto culturale, che dei primi due rappresenta la naturale ripercussione sulla società. In questo senso, il declino calcistico del Myanmar è stato frutto di quello del paese, causato da un regime che non ha mai tollerato alcun atteggiamento che si scostasse anche solo un minimo dalle direttive della giunta al potere.

Ma adesso, tutto questo sembrerebbe – il condizionale è d’obbligo – appartenere al passato. Con il passaggio di consegne tra il generale Than Shwe – superstizioso leader tristemente noto per la sua crudeltà nel reprimere ogni forma di dissenso e per i trattamenti disumani che i suoi uomini hanno sempre riservato ai prigionieri politici – e il suo successore Thein Sein, il governo birmano si è aperto ad una serie di riforme tese ad evolvere il paese in senso democratico. Indubbiamente si tratta di una transizione che richiederà molto tempo, visto che la popolazione birmana deve risollevarsi da quasi mezzo secolo di oppressioni, e già non mancano le prime controversie del nuovo governo, come il durissimo ostracismo del nuovo premier nei confronti della minoranza musulmana di Rohingya, sistematicamente perseguitata per volontà dello stesso Thein Sein, il quale si è reso anche protagonista di una serie di inquietanti uscite a stampo razzista che hanno fatto severamente preoccupare la comunità internazionale.

La strada è però ormai tracciata, ed in fondo a questo tunnel che la Birmania ha impiegato quasi cinquant’anni a percorrere si vede un barlume di luce, simbolo della speranza alla quale si aggrappano le oltre sessanta milioni di persone che abitano questa terra del Sudest asiatico. Ed è qui che entra di scena il calcio. Uno dei miglioramenti più evidenti che preludono alla nuova era democratica birmana – e andato parallelo con la svolta politica e sociale – è rappresentato dai progressi del mondo sportivo birmano, con il calcio in primis. Gli ‘Angeli Bianchi‘ della nazionale del Myanmar sono ancora molto lontani dal poter emulare i propri connazionali che conclusero al secondo posto la Coppa d’Asia del 1968 dietro all’Iran (che avevano sconfitto due anni prima nella finale dei Giochi Asiatici, successo che ripeteranno nel 1970 e che sarà accolto con festeggiamenti in tutto il paese) e, a dire il vero, rimangono piuttosto distanti anche solo da un’eventuale qualificazione al massimo torneo continentale, del quale quella del 1968 rimane l’unica partecipazione. A conferma di questo, c’è anche il fatto che attualmente la nazionale birmana occupa solo la posizione numero 163 del Ranking FIFA, dietro a Ciad, Lesotho e Isole Salomone, e nove posti dietro Tahiti.

Il futuro del calcio birmano, post Golden Generation degli anni sessanta, però, non è mai stato così promettente come ora. In particolar modo, dopo la creazione della Myanmar National League (MNL) nel 2009, il primo campionato professionistico nel paese, il livello tecnico e le prestazioni sia della nazionale maggiore che di quelle giovanili, sono aumentati considerevolmente. Il risultato più evidente di questa crescita è stato dato dalla qualificazione della selezione under-22 alla Coppa d’Asia di categoria. Nemmeno il ct Park Sung-Wha, 92 presenze e 28 reti con la nazionale sudcoreana tra il ’74 e l’84, lo avrebbe mai pensato, come dichiarato al Myanmar Times al termine della deludente preparazione della sua squadra svoltasi nella sua terra natale, nella quale il Myanmar perse tutte e cinque le amichevoli disputate contro squadre universitarie coreane. “Il Myanmar non ha avuto alcun modo di battere le squadre sudcoreane. Loro [gli avversari] erano solo selezioni composte da studenti universitari ma la qualità tecnica era [già] troppo differente. I ragazzi devono rendersi conto di quale sia il loro livello e combattere di più”.

Detto, fatto. Nonostante i dubbi di ct Park (“sarà ancora molto difficile che il Myanmar si qualifichi; dobbiamo battere Malesia, Vietnam e Taipei Cinese, e sto pensando a come vincere contro queste squadre”), i giovani birmani hanno concluso imbattuti la campagna di qualificazione, con quattro vittorie e un pareggio. Le tanto temute selezioni sopracitate sono state tutte superate (il Vietnam per 3-1, Taipei Cinese con un roboante 6-2 e la Malesia 2-1 nell’ultimo turno del girone), e Park è stato persino testimone del pareggio a reti bianche contro la quotatissima Corea del Sud, che sì schierava calciatori provenienti da squadre universitarie, ma rimaneva pur sempre la super favorita del girone, che ha poi concluso in testa a pari merito con il Myanmar. Da aggiungere c’è poi anche il 5-1 alle Filippine. Una campagna trionfale.

L’aver disputato le gare tra le mura amiche del Thuwunna Stadium è stato un fattore chiave. Ma senza le prodezze di giovani come Kyaw Ko Ko e Kyi Lin, solo per citarne due, sarebbe stato difficile. Questa nuova generazione costituisce anche l’ossatura della nazionale maggiore, tanto che nella squadra convocata da Park per le qualificazioni alla Challenge Cup del 2014 (torneo per nazionali minori asiatiche, il cui vincitore stacca un biglietto per la prossima Coppa d’Asia del 2015 in Australia) c’erano solo cinque giocatori su 23 con età superiore ai ventitre anni. Se buon sangue non mente, ci sarà molto da aspettarsi dal Myanmar degli anni a venire. Un’altra dimostrazione è arrivata proprio dalle qualificazioni alla Challenge Cup. L’esperienza di due anni fa fu fallimentare, il Myanmar non riuscì nemmeno a qualificarsi raccogliendo un solo punto (1-1 con le Filippine) perdendo contro il Bangladesh per 2-0 e la Palestina per 3-1. Tutte partite disputate in casa, anche se l’affluenza di pubblico fu modesta; il picco fu raggiunto nella gara contro il Bangladesh alla quale assistettero solo 3,000 spettatori. Ma quella era, ormai, un’altra epoca. Per fare un’idea, la gara dell’under-23 contro la Corea del Sud fu vista da oltre 28,000 persone. Il pubblico ha risposto presente al nuovo corso intrapreso dalla nazionale. E il Myanmar non ha deluso, anzi, ben pochi si aspettavano che la squadra potesse vincere il girone con India, Taipei Cinese e Guam. L’ostacolo indiano veniva considerato quasi insormontabile, a maggior ragione dopo il deludente 1-1 di Myanmar contro Taipei Cinese (risultato, in realtà, maturato solo nel finale a causa di un rigore inesistente assegnato agli ospiti e trasformato da Lee Meng-chian). Il Guam era invece stato agevolmente superato per 5-0 nel primo incontro.

Contro tutti i pronostici, però, un goal di Soe Min Oo, classe 1988, tra i più anziani della banda, è bastato a decidere l’incontro sancendo un’insperata qualificazione. Insperata per tutti coloro che credono che il Myanmar sia lo stesso di due anni fa. Al tempo, era inconcepibile pensare di poter sconfiggere una selezione che solo nel 2011 aveva persino preso parte alla Coppa d’Asia (l’India). Ora è realtà, eccome. E le attese per vedere come il Myanmar si comporterà alla prossima Coppa d’Asia U-23, alla Challenge Cup che vale la Coppa d’Asia, e all’edizione del massimo torneo continentale U-19 del 2014, alla quale è già qualificato in quanto paese ospitante, crescono vertiginosamente.

Chiaramente, questo percorso è stato costellato anche da qualche intoppo. Ed era inevitabile. Su tutti la Suzuki Cup, sentitissimo torneo che coinvolge le nazionali del Sudest asiatico, dove il Myanmar è stato eliminato alla prima fase con un solo punto in tre gare, maturato in un 1-1 contro il Vietnam. Il 4-0 subito dai rivali della Thailandia, poi, è stato un risultato molto pesante da digerire. Ma è normale che una squadra con così poca esperienza trovi delle difficoltà. L’importante è imparare la lezione, e il Myanmar ha dimostrato nella Challenge Cup di avercela fatta brillantemente.

La rinascita della terre delle tigri ha suscitato nuovi interessi dall’estero per i calciatori del paese. Su tutti, Kyaw Ko Ko, attaccante classe ’92, ha dimostrato di saperci fare per davvero, tanto da guadagnarsi l’interesse di Norimberga e Helsingborg. Per ora rimane in patria, con lo Yangon United, ma è molto probabile che il prossimo passo della sua carriera sia all’estero, come minimo in qualche campionato asiatico di livello superiore. Discorso analogo vale per Kyi Lin, messosi in luce alla Suzuki Cup e alla relativa campagna di qualificazione, che secondo alcuni rumours avrebbe attratto dei club giapponesi. Adesso si parla di un possibile trasferimento nella Malaysia Super League, il campionato malese, ma l’esterno birmano coetaneo di Kyaw Ko Ko merita sicuramente molto di più. Anche perché la differenza tra Myanmar e Malesia, ormai, non è nemmeno tanto marcata. Come invece lo era due anni fa.

Il primato incontrastato di Suk Bahadur, quello unanimemente considerato il miglior calciatore che la Birmania abbia mai prodotto, visto il suo ruolo di autentica stella della Golden Generation degli anni tra il 1950 e il 1970, potrebbe essere messo in discussione in un futuro prossimo. Certo, il Myanmar è solo all’inizio, e ne passerà di tempo prima che tornerà ad essere competitivo con Corea del Sud e Iran, come in quei gloriosi anni. Non è neanche detto che accada di nuovo. Ma, se il buongiorno si vede dal mattino, il paese, tra gli sforzi verso la democrazia e la conseguente rinascita sportiva, potrebbe davvero essere all’alba di una nuova era.

Christian Rizzitelli

We are all ready to live the dream at the Confederations Cup: Interview with Tahiti international Tamatoa Wagemann

Image  [Copyright to OFC]

A former RC Strasbourg youth, with plenty of experience in France and Switzerland, Tahiti and AS Dragon defender Tamatoa Wagemann has certainly played a major role in the island’s rise to the world stage of football, as they will live a once-in-a-lifetime experience when they will play in the next Confederations Cup against Nigeria, Spain and Uruguay, one of the finest national teams in the world.

When were you contacted first by the FTF (Fédération Tahitienne de Football) to play for the Tahitian national team and how did you get involved with them?

I’ve been contacted for the first time in 2006 by the national team coach to play two friendly matches against New Zealand, which both ended 0-0. I was playing in Switzerland in the 2.Liga [with FC Alle].

Which were Tahiti’s expectations before the OFC Nations Cup last year?

I wanted to go there to win any match because I knew we had a great potential, despite before the start of the tournament we certainly were not the favorites.

How did you react after New Zealand’s elimination?

I was not surprised, because I followed the other match [New Zealand-New Caledonia 0-2] on tv and I saw that they were in trouble, heat was revealing to be a true problem for them.

In your opinion, where Tahitian football must improve most?

I think [it must improve] especially the standard of tackles and physical condition.

How is the country preparing for the next Confederations Cup? And the team?

The federation has set up an excellent organization to prepare this competition in three months, we’re signed to a contract and we are 100% at the service of the national team like professional footballers! We train twice a day, we have access to doctors, sessions of muscular training, physiotherapy etc…

Which is the current role of football in Tahiti?

Football is a bit in decline in our island since last few years, because it’s especially beach soccer and futsal the sports that attire most our youth. However our win at the Nations Cup has a bit saved football in Tahiti.

Why hasn’t Tahiti performed as expected in the last World Cup qualifiers?

The first reason is the lack of rhythm, because the first matches of the World Cup qualification have been played in August while the Tahitian championship [Tahiti First Division] started only in October. We didn’t have our best debut and it was difficult to recover from that.

What do you think of Tahiti’s results at the last Coupe d’Outre Mer in September?

I think we played a good tournament, especially considering our win over Martinique who were the reigning champions. We finished ex aequo at the first place but we didn’t qualify for the semi-finals because of the goal difference, it was a pity because we had the potential to go to the final.

Do you think that Tahiti’s connections with France could help them improve their level of football?

I don’t have the impression that France is helping us much, I think they could do much more but that’s all about politics and that’s not my area of interest.

Do you think that there are some Tahitian players who could play professional football? Could you name some of them?

Yes, without any doubt! There are some young players who have the skills to play professional football, I’m thinking of Alvin Tehau, Donovan Bourebare, Steevy Chong Hue.

Our last question: which are you future goals of the season and of your career?

I’ve just won the championship and the Tahiti Cup with AS Dragon, we are totally focused on the OFC Champions League and we’ve just beaten Auckland City [the current champions] 3-1 away. We have still two matches to play and qualify for the semi-finals and that would be great for Tahitian football. In June we have the Confederations Cup in Brazil and I take it as a reward, because there’s nothing better than ending [the career] with a competition like this!

By Christian Rizzitelli

AOFC (Asian Oceanian Football Confederation): ten reasons why Oceania should say yes

The Asian Oceanian Football Confederation. The solution to long-standing troubles such as isolation, backwardness and scarce international competitiveness which continuously involve the OFC (Oceania Football Confederation) could be found there, in the neighboring Asiatic counterpart. Without any doubt integrating Oceanian countries in a fast-growing scenario like Asia would represent a decisive, historic turn for the football played on the Pacific islands, which have had few chances to attract interest outside their relatively small continent so far.

Obviously it’s just an idea and nothing like this is on the table right now, but let’s analyze together which could be the ten biggest benefits which would derive from the birth of the AOFC.

1.International competitiveness

If you’ve ever heard someone talking about Oceania, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga on sports matters, they were probably related to the continent’s dominant sporting activity, rugby, in which all of them excel brilliantly on the global stage. Apart from New Zealand, where a footballing culture is growing up after the All Whites‘ heroics at the last World Cup in South Africa, barely you can associate the names of these countries to football, as many Oceania’s nations would find it hard even to compete against clubs from the Italian sixth tier.

2.The clubs

The same can be said about clubs. It doesn’t make so much sense playing continually against the same opponents, especially considering their low technical level.

At international level, OFC club teams can prove themselves only at the Club World Cup, where they often have to face off some of the strongest Asian teams in an uneven and difficult play-off.

It’s by far more useful that these teams play with a certain regularity at improved standards, and not just once a year. And getting the chance to play clubs like Kelantan, Nagoya, Arema or Seongnam, despite they’re not Barcelona or Manchester United, would already be an enormous step forward to the right direction.

3.Technical development

Oceanian football would heavily improve in many different aspects, from the growth of young players to a more professional management of societies. A technical development which groups any side of football both on and off the pitch must be considered the turning point around which all the the others would subsequently rotate.

4.The economical aspect

As football is considerably expanding as a worldwide multi-million market, the economical aspect is a hugely relevant part of the game. The Oceania Football Confederation actually lives of funds coming from sponsors and partnerships with other federations (the FA of England, the Australian FFA), and recently some drawbacks from Oceania’s football governing body showed how much they need to find a solid business stability in order of avoiding to affect the game in the continent. For example, OFC general secretary Tai Nicholas in September revealed that OFC couldn’t provide the broadcast of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers across the continent as it would have meant a cost of USD 140,000 for OFC TV, the confederation’s production unit, despite tv broadcasters from Tahiti and New Caledonia had already bought the rights. “We have to operate financially and be prudent with our funds and OFC TV was facing a USD 140,000 loss in the live production. This does not make good business sense and it would have been irresponsible of us to proceed any further,” he declared. “We apologize for the situation but there are high costs involved and great difficulties logistically in the production of such matches with games played across four countries within a few days of each other.”

Surely in Asia it would be extremely unlikely to face another situation like this, especially for matches such as the World Cup qualifiers.

And inevitably, the local federations of the Pacific nations can’t afford the costs of the organization of friendly matches at the current state of things.

All of us know how necessary is money in sports today, and for an upgrade of football in Oceania is indispensable a parallel economic improvement.

5.The passion of fans

In some Oceanian countries, like the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, football is considered the national sport, it’s widely played and gets thousands of followers. Local fans deserve to see their dreams come true one day, like watching their national team winning a once-in-a-lifetime match. And if you question the real existence of the passion for the game, just think that more than 10,000 fans watched the 2011 South Pacific Games final in New Caledonia, or that over 22,000 people came out to witness the Solomon Islands securing a 2-0 win against Tahiti in their first match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification games.

6.The chance of playing regularly

Factors like excessive costs and a lack of interest from international mass media contribute to positioning football at the lowest levels of the continental sports hierarchy. So we don’t have to be surprised if we discover that most of Oceanian countries play some international games just once every four years, during the South Pacific Games or the WC qualifiers, when these two tournaments don’t coincide, reducing even more the number of games that every country plays. And without any game time, improving is a titanic task-

7.A greater visibility

Let’s imagine that Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, two bordering countries, organize a friendly match. The Guineans, apart from playing a kind of derby with their Asiatic neighbours, would receive attention from an entire footballing nation like Indonesia, which counts more than 200 millions people. It would be a completely different new situation, as their opponents usually don’t number even 100,000 people among them (American Samoa, Tuvalu and so on).

And also national talents would take advantage of the visibility that Asian football guarantees, for not getting snobbed just reading their provenance on their identity cards. Because unfortunately it’s so difficult to find a player good enough for professional football on the Pacific islands that we shouldn’t be shocked to see things like these happening.

8.New Zealand: the British style in Asia

Not only the OFC would take advantage from an association with its Asian counterpart but also the AFC could improve a lot with a theoretical entrance of New Zealand, whose football’s impressively improved in recent years. Not only the All Whites shocked the world with their unbeaten run at the last World Cup, but also the youth national teams have shown glimpses of class, demonstrated by prowesses of high-promising talents with the likes of Leicester City’s Chris Wood, who has scored 13 goals so far in the Championship, and the labelled ‘KiwiMessi’ Marco Rojas, who is literally ripping up his opponents in the A-League.

A team who is based on a typical Britannic physicity with a huge amount of quality emerging: a more than interesting calling card for New Zealand.

9.The ‘Oriundos’: future heroes?

Some points above I had written that it’s very difficult to find some footballers suitable for professional football in the Pacific zone. Yet it’s difficult but not impossible, as there are Benjamin Totori from the Solomon Islands, who plays as a super-sub for the Wellington Phoenix in the A-League, Georges Gope-Fenepej of Troyes and Lorient’s Wesley Lautoa, both from New Caledonia, who ply their trade in the French Ligue 1, and the list could go on. But this list could even be much more longer if we consider all the players native of these Oceanian countries who could potentially represent their originary nation: just think of Marama Vahirua, a former France U-21 international who recently declared he’d like to represent Tahiti at the next Confederations Cup, Central Coast Mariners left-back Brad McDonald, who was born in Papua New Guinea, or Western Sydney Wanderers’ Tahj Minniecon, whose blood is mixed up with Vanuatuan heritage. There are many others unfortunately unavailable now, like Reading centre-back Adrian Mariappa, who could have played for Fiji instead of Jamaica, or Nouméa-born Frédéric Piquionne, who could have boosted Les Cagous’ team for the World Cup qualifiers hadn’t he chosen Martinique and France over them, or, referring to the past, 1998 World Cup winner Christian Karembeu, born in Lifou, New Caledonia, and the greatest Oceanian player of all time.

It’s easily understandable that most of these players chose to play for stronger national teams instead of their little-known native countries, but things would change had the Pacific islands the chance of fighting for relevant targets in the footballing panorama.

Why on Earth should Brad McDonald or Tahj Minniecon decide to play for teams who only get a handful of matches every four years instead of living with the potential hope of playing a World Cup with Australia (despite it seems unlikely for them)?

10.The history

The birth of the AOFC would mark the start of a new era for football in Oceania. And for these small countries every chance of playing would be historic, a pleasurable novelty, which would then become a habit. Unfortunately the ideas of just few people to make a whole continent dream will never be enough, a turn like this needs that the first steps come from the OFC’s headquarters. The only thing we can do is waiting for some good news, and maybe continuing to spread and create new ideas. Let’s hope one day we’ll wake up seeing this dream come true.

 

EXCLUSIVE – From the Netherlands with love: Tuvaluan heroes Alopua Petoa and Vaisua Liva speak on their unbelievable European experience

By Christian Rizzitelli

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October 5, 2012 was one of the days that Tuvaluan people would have never thought to live. A country with just 10,544 dwellers (according to the last census in July 2011), and extremely isolated from the rest of the world, has little chance of getting noticed in a continent like Europe, especially if we’re talking about football, many of you would think. However that day, this apparently unrealizable thing occurred for real. Two little known boys from the tiny island, Alopua Petoa and Vaisua Liva, managed to fly to the Netherlands for a three-month internship with VV Brabantia, a Dutch club currently playing in the country’s sitxh division, thanks to the superhuman work from the Dutch support Tuvalu, an ambitious foundation whose target is to make Tuvalu a member of the FIFA in a few years.

We asked Frank Westerink, a member of the association’s team, our questions, to discover how things have gone so far for the boys, who couldn’t have answered themselves as their English is still improving.

Describe how things have gone so far  for Alopua and Vaisua in the Netherlands.

Both Alopua and Vaisua are very happy so far. They really gained a lot of new experience. They saw sheep for the first time! It’s getting colder and colder in Eindhoven [where they’re currently living] so they both have to get used to that. They even had white smoke coming out of their mouths without smoking! Football also is going good. Alopua and Vaisua are both getting better and better and are really part of VV Brabantia B, they even had the chanse to play with the first team and they made a lot of new friends at the club.

How have they settled down in the Netherlands? Was it easy to adapt to a completely different environment from Tuvalu?

Alopua and Vaisua have adapted to their new enviroment quickly. They gained a lot of new experience but were well looked after by people from the Foundation Dutch support Tuvalu and their football club VV Brabantia. With their personal guides they have all the possibilities to enjoy Eindhoven as much as possible.

What do they miss of their country?

Alopua and Vaisua do miss Tuvaluan fish! In Tuvalu everybody eats fish every day, in Eindhoven they eat a lot of other things. They miss the nice weather as well. It’s too cold in Eindhoven in autumm and winter, and of course Alopua is missing his girlfriend in Tuvalu.

What Tuvaluan people thought when they left for this new extraordinary experience?

In Tuvalu people were very proud and concerned. Proud because they would be the first men to go to the Netherlands to play football, for both of them it’s a huge experience. People were so happy and are hoping many more will follow. The football association, the government and the people of Tuvalu are following almost every step the boys are making.

But also they were concerned as well for the safety of the boys. The football club and the Foundation DsT were able to gain the trust of the people of Tuvalu and then they could eventually come to the Netherlands. 

Which is the thing they appreciate most of football in the Netherlands?

The high level and the high speed. In Tuvalu football is at a good level but is played with a slow speed, mostly because of the bad condition of the football field. The field and the accomodation are of a high level as well at VV Brabantia, it’s almost perfect. Their coaches and team mates give them many advice as well, they do appreciate that a lot. Everybody is trying to make them better players.

Which has been their greatest moment since arriving at Brabantia

There have been many great moments. They played against FC Eindhoven, a professional Dutch club of the Eerste Divisie, they have been skiing and went to a match of PSV. The stadium was full with 40,000 people, while Tuvalu only has about 12,000 habitants [they saw more people in just a stadium than in their whole country!]. Of course they have been visiting some bars in Eindhoven as well with their teammates and they spent with them great evenings.

Did they meet some Dutch people who had already heard of Tuvalu? If yes, what do they think about the country?

There are really just a few people in the Netherlands who know about Tuvalu. Everybody of VV Brabantia knows a little bit about Tuvalu but most of them became interested when they knew Alopua and Vaisua were coming to Eindhoven. People at the gym of Vaisua and Alopua knew a little bit as well. Most people do know that Foppe de Haan was head coach of Tuvalu last year for a few weeks. In general this has been hugely new in the Netherlands. 

Which is the biggest difference between them and the Dutch players they’ve been playing with?

Of course the biggest difference is the language! The thing that is most in common is the passion for football. Vaisua and Alopua are playing in a team of their own level. They get challenged by some players that are better, of course, but there is not much difference between Dutch players and them. There is one big difference for the clubs: in the Netherlands football clubs have many teams, for youth, women and men, while in Tuvalu most clubs only have two or three teams. 

What Tuvalu football should do to improve their game?

Right now the most important thing is a new football field. The Tuvalu stadium has a terrible field, if it has rained a lot the pitch can’t be played at all. The field at VV Brabantia is made of artificial turf and is great to play at. It gives the players the change to play the best possible and it makes the game faster.

Besides that it’s important that the youth of Tuvalu are going to play football, both at school and at clubs. The real skills get developed during the youth and many Tuvalu players haven’t played enough football during while being young.

What needs to be done to spread a football culture in Oceania in their opinion?

There is already a football culture in Oceania but for the smaller countries it’s difficult to set up football as one of their most important sports. For countries like Australia and New Zealand is far easier. However the recent results of  Tahiti are fantastic for Oceania, they will play at the Confederations Cup, an amazing result for them and the continent. For the smaller Pacific islands these results are important, as there is a big competitions with other sports like Rugby. However with time the best sport will get the most attention.

What do they do in their spare time in the Netherlands?

Alopua and Vaisua are very often in the gym. They are trying to gain more and more muscles! They do play a lot of football games at the Play-Station as well and they even went skiing, for both it was the first time. They felt like robots with the ski boots on!

If you had the chance, would they come back to Tuvalu of would they stay in Europe? Why?

Both of them would go back to Tuvalu. They would like to visit Europe again but Tuvalu is their home and that’s important in their country and culture. The families of both the boys live there and the girlfriend of Alopua also lives in Tuvalu. Both of them have an important role now as they’re promoting football on the islands.

Check Alopua and Vaisua’s progress and their amazing adventure in this mini TV series, from the Tuvalu National Football Association’s official YouTube channel! http://www.youtube.com/user/footballtuvalu

EXCLUSIVE – Interview to Leon Glass, the remotest football manager of the world

The most remote football manager in the most remote island of the world. This is Leon Glass, the man who has the charge of organizing all the football played on Tristan da Cunha, a group of islands dispersed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean which count about 260 inhabitants. AsianOceanianfootball caught up with him to discuss the influence of the most popular sport in the most unknown place on Earth.

Give us a general introduction of football on Tristan da Cunha.

Football on Tristan is a very popular sport, but due to the small population of the island it is hard to form an 11-a-side team, so we usually play 5-a-side and we have two competing teams.

How football managed to arrive on the islands?

I don’t remember the exact dates but it was introduced by missionaries to the island and I think military personnel on visiting ships.

What about Tristan da Cunha national team, has it played any matches?

At the moment we don’t class ourselves as a national team, we don’t have the facilities or the funds to leave the island so all our matches are classified as friendlies.

According to some sources, Tristan da Cunha is a potential member of the CSANF, the South American Board of New Federations. Are you interested in taking part in this board and have you ever heard of it?

We were approached by CSANF a few years ago but we could not join because of the reasons in the above answers in question 1 and question 3.

What are your plans for the 2012/13 upcoming season in football?

We don’t make any official season plans as our matches vary but we try to train at least once a week to keep sharp.

How many matches do Tristan da Cunha’s selections manage to play every year against ship’s teams or other teams?

Again these matches vary from about 3 to 6 matches a year, although we would like to play much much more.

How many matches did you play in 2012 and which have been the results?

In 2012 we only played 1 match and that was our annual 5-a-side cup where our team is split down the middle with Tristan Government employees on one side and our Fish Processing Factory employees on the other. The Government team won the closely contested match 2-1.

Which is your exact position in Tristan da Cunha football?

My role at the moment is player manager, I organize the training sessions, order the team kits and take part in some of the matches.

What’s your next target?

We were recently invited to a 5-a-side tournament in Mallorca, but because of shipping schedules and lack of time to secure travel funding we could not attend, we would like very much to compete and do well in a tournament like this.

Is there a local championship played on the island?

Yes, the local championship is called the Table Bay Marine Cup and it’s the one I’ve mentioned before.

Do you think it will be possible to see one day Tristan da Cunha playing against other ‘neighboring’ islands, like Saint Helena? It’s rumoured that TDC lost 9-0 a game versus Saint Helena, but there’s no source confirming that, is it true?

We would like to play against the neighboring islands if it one day becomes possible, we have never played any of them before, so the rumour that we lost 9-0 to St Helena is just a rumour.

Which is Tristan da Cunha’s biggest success in football so far?

It is hard to say which is our biggest success so far as we have played so few matches, but the game we are most proud of is a few years ago when a South African construction team was visiting Tristan for several months, after playing two close matches that ended at 4-4 they challenged us to one final game before they left and dared us to put our recently won Trophy on the line. The result was Tristan Da Cunha – Apple Construction 14-2.

Tristan da Cunha’s teams played against Norwegian and American ships around 1940s. Do you have any info about those matches?

Yes through some of the history books Tristan teams did play these ships but I don’t have any info about them besides that they were played.

Do you have any chance of watching some football on tv?

We Follow the English Premier League on TV also the Champions League and all of the international competitions.

Do you have a favourite football team?

The majority of my team like me supports Man Utd but a few in the team also like Arsenal and Liverpool.

 by Christian Rizzitelli

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Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) name 27-man squad to face Arsenal and Manchester City

Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) has named a 27-men training squad for July’s big friendlies against Arsenal and Manchester City.

The team will group on July 16 under national team coach Datuk K.Rajagopal, who opted for a great amount of young players for the clashes against the two English Premier League powehouses.

Seven players from the team who triumphed at last year’s SEA Games will all be part of the squad, while 19-year-old rising star Rozaimi Rahman will also join the team after his outstanding performance with the U-21 side, wherewith he scored 10 goals in 5 matches in 2013 U-22 Asian Cup qualifiers.

Rajagopal will use these prestigious encounters to prepare the team for the upcoming Suzuki Cup, which will be played on home soil and Thailand between November and December.

The Malayan Tigers will take on Arsenal on July 24 in Bukit Jalil’s National Stadium, before challenging current Premier League champions Manchester City six days later in the same venue.

Malaysia’s squad:

Goalkeepers: Khairul Fahmi (Kelantan), Norazlan Razali (Selangor), Mohd Farizal (Negeri Sembilan).

Defenders: Mohd Asraruddin Putra Omar (Selangor), Mohd Fadhli Shas (Harimau Muda A), Subramaniam (Kelantan), Muslim Ahmad (Terengganu), Amirizwan (ATM), Faizal Muhammad (Terengganu), Mahali Jasuli (Harimau Muda A), Mohd Aidil Zafuan (ATM), Azmi Muslim (ATM)

Midfielders: Safiq Rahim (Selangor), Shahurain Abu Samah (Negeri Sembilan), Amar Rohidan (Kedah), Baddrol Bakhtiar (Kedah), Bunyamin Umar (Selangor), Kunanlan (Negeri Sembilan), Mohd Shakir Shaari (Kelantan), Mohd Ashaari Shamsuddin (Terengganu), Rozaimi Abdul (Sabah), Yong Kuong Yong (Felda United).

Strikers: Safee Sali (Pelita Jaya), Norshahrul Idlan (Kelantan), Ahmad Shakir Mohd Ali (Negeri Sembilan), Mohd Khyril Muhymeen Zambri (Kedah), Azamuddin Mohd Akil (Pahang).

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