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Reset focus, include overseas based footballers

Opinions / Analysis

WITH the fast approaching to the World Cup 2022 qualifiers, the Fijian national football coach needs to bring in foreign-based players to the team.

It is time for coach Flemming Serritslev to cue in the discussion of national selection.

The global nature of the game of football has lent itself over the years to the inclusion of footballers into and out of different countries.

Serritslev needs to be made aware of if he hasn’t already, that Fijian footballers play their trade in premier to top divisional footballing competition in England, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United States of America.

These European, Oceania, Asia and North American talent teamed up with the cream of the Fijian crop would give Serritelv a team that would beat Oceania’s best and beyond.

But first, the former Papua New Guinea men's coach needs to reset his views on the inclusion of New Zealand based footballers.

In a 2020 Radio New Zealand interview Serritslev said he does not think any of the Fijian players currently in New Zealand are better than what is on offer in Fiji right now.

The claim could be refuted considering New Zealand clubs with majority Fijian footballers have beaten top premier district teams during the Pacific Cup seemingly at will.

If New Zealand is off limits, then I guess Canada dual Nicholas Prasad and Zachary "Zach" Verhoven, and England’s Scott Wara would likely get the call up depending on their availability.

Serritslev has been tracking Nicholas, who debuted for Fiji in 2018 against New Caledonia, he is a regular for Bischofswerdaer FV 08 in the German fourth division.

Zachary plays for Atlético Ottawa of the Canadian Premier League, while Scott plays for New Castle United F.C U23 team.

Wara has also in the past represented Fiji but with Zachary, it comes down to eligibility.

FIFA stipulations restrict his selection to another nation unless he becomes a citizen to the representation.

That leaves the USA and Australia selections, and it is where football has grown in leaps and bounds.

With USA, the Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football, (CONCACAF) powerhouse, the USA United States Soccer Federation continues to invest in grassroots development, training of future footballers in the country and with the Major League, A-League and College football, the sport is thriving, similarly with Australia in Asia Confederation, the two nations World Cup representation is the direct result of their development program.

Footballers from these confederations need to be looked at for selection as well.

Former national and Lautoka football legend Epeli Kosa believes the national coach and the governance needs to broaden their outlook to New Zealand and Australia footballers.

Kosa said the claim that NZ has nothing better to offer is wrong.

“We have better players than he can ever imagine, our teams beat Fiji district teams during the Pacific Cup, and that’s where I rest it, someone needs to run the history by the man who previously coached Papua New Guinea”.

“Papua New Guinea didn’t go far, sadly Fiji isn’t going far unless top down changes the mindset”.

Kosa said for football to progress in the country, the governing body should look to other nations, including footballers of Fijian heritage for the World Cup qualifiers for a start.

“Bring in footballers who play top level football in other countries with Fijian heritage they will help elevate the standard of the sport in country”.

Kosa said Fiji had been merely making numbers at regional events over the last 4 decades and things got to change.

“National coaches change on the fly, but the standard of sport remains afoot, 80s were the best years for Fiji football.

“We beat New Zealand, Australia, Tahiti in a thrilling contest, and steamrolled over the rest, we were that powerful, and with local coaches”.

Kosa said what is pretty cut and dry about other nations becoming successful in the sport is their development and selection of overseas based footballers".

“Foreign footballers are the way forward for Fiji football”, said Kosa.

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