Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Why Oceania/Pacifica gets snubbed.

It's an unrivaled area in the world.  Spread across thousands of square miles of ocean and clustered in small groups of islands or just a plain individual islands, Oceania (if referring to Football) or The Pacific Islands have historically been hard to get to, have small populations, and have very little in the way of vibrant rich economies.  They are small in every aspect of the world.  But in the larger scale of the world as a place, they are tiny, and economically very very poor.  The largest country in this group is New Zealand with a population of just 4.5 million.

So what of these countries in the global village?  Let's first look at Football.  In many of these small countries, football is the main sport and played regularly between countries in this group.  They're not the best teams in the world, and often could be said, globally, probably the worst.  That's not the fault of those countries, when you have a very small population base to draw from, you'll have indicative results.  But like all sports, there is a passion, and passion in world football is a given.  So with that in mind, their efforts should be rewarded in some way  to improve their lot and make them have a goal to attain sporting notoriety.  But FIFA continually neglect this area of Oceania in not allowing automatic entry to World Cup, the only global federation with this honour.

But then you see that that makes sound sense.  There is no money coming from those islands to curry favour in FIFA's boardroom, except New Zealand, and then that amount of cash from that nation is a pittance in world football circles.  So it is fair then that FIFA take their stance?  FIFA's role in it's sport is to foster competitive football across the globe, through competitions, through regional development, and through financial support.  That it doesn't do this well in the Pacific is well recorded.

And yes, you have heard this somewhere else.  Another world sporting body has been doing this for years, but probably less publicly.  The International Rugby Board (IRB) have been making a lot of noises in the past about growing the game in the region, even hinting at pouring money into those countries that have a good rugby base (and a sport more popular in their country than football).  But with the IRB making ruminations and then not following through a lot of rugby players (and future players) have left their homelands (weakening their national teams) for the bigger dollars of rugby elsewhere, or switching codes to Rugby League.  Sure this avenue gives up and coming players a new right of passage for individual endeavour, but at the expense of national representation and kudos.

FIFA and IRB both see the Pacific Islands as nuisance factor it is fair to say and both continue to ignore the reason sport exists, the need to bring excellence to the paddock.  Sure they won't be world beaters, but small nation teams in the past have surprised and created lasting sporting memories.  If both organisations don't give hope then why should teams be formed and play under that code?

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