Tuvalu Eye Place In Football Family
Tuvalu, a tiny archipelago of just 26 square kilometres and approximately 12,000 inhabitants, has been independent since 1978. Despite finding itself at the centre of a region where the sport of rugby is king, on Tuvalu it is football that reigns supreme. It is for this precise reason that Tapugao Falefou, President of the Tuvalu Football Association, is so intent on helping his association to gain membership of world football’s governing body, an objective that has the full support of the island’s Prime Minister, Apisai lelemia. During their visit to the Home of FIFA in September, both men spoke about Tuvalu’s bid for membership.
Can you outline the reasons why you’ve both come to FIFA headquarters in Zurich this September?
Apisai lelemia: I travelled to Brussels to unveil an assignment for the European Union, and I’m taking advantage of this opportunity to make a detour and drop
into Zurich and accompany Mr Tapugao Falefou on his visit to FIFA. Tapugao Falefou: We’re here to discuss our candidature for joining FIFA, and having the Prime Minister with us is a real stroke of luck. We’ve been associate members of the OFC since last year, so joining FIFA is the next step.
Tell us something about the state of the game in Tuvalu.
Falefou: First of all, it’s the no.1 sport there – almost everybody plays! Our season lasts from February to October. The Premier League consists of nine clubs. This year we’ve made a start on counting the number of people playing the game, but it’s a tricky task and it must be understood that our association relies totally on volunteer workers. We could well do with a few full-time employees…
lelemia: As far as the national team is concerned, we’ve taken part in the qualifying round for the South Pacific Games, which also serve as the first phase
of preliminary qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa. We’re still learning, but we can be satisfied with our results: we got off to a really bad start against Fiji (16-0), though we went on to only lose 1-0 against New Caledonia, after keeping them at bay for half the game, and then we even managed a draw against Tahiti (1-1). The last two results in particular were against two strong Pacific sides, so it’s a good omen.
How would joining FIFA help?
Falefou: It would enable us to make our football more professional. For example, at the moment we can’t afford to pay for a coach for our national team. If we had one, I’m sure we’d make a great deal of progress.
lelemia: We’ve wanted to be part of FIFA since 1987. We’ve been part of the United Nations since September 2000. In a way, the next logical step is to be¬come a part of the big football family.