The OFC U-19 Women’s Championship 2019 will write a piece of history when the action begins on Friday. For the first time, all 11 members of the Oceania Football Confederation will compete, a figure that differs from only six when the last edition took place two years ago. Despite the expanded field, the Cook Islands, the nation’s smallest nation, will host.
Apart from the continental fame, participation in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2020 is on the program. New Zealand, which has won all six tournaments since joining Australia for the 2006 AFC, will be the hot favorite to keep its crown.
For many nations in the Pacific, it is one step at a time, while women’s football is still in its infancy. Such a nation is Tahiti, despite its strong history in men’s football and more recently in beach soccer.
Coached by UEFA-born UEFA license holder Stephanie Spielmann, this is another step in the right direction for Tahiti, whose senior team returned to the international scene last year after a seven-year break.
Thierry Ariiotima, president of the Tahiti Federation, expressed his satisfaction that “real” women’s football women’s development is now taking place. “Football is all its forms, everyone should be,” he said. “It can be said that this has now become reality in Tahiti, especially for women.”
OFC U-19 Women’s Championship
Dates: 30 August – 14 September
Group A: Cook Islands, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu
Group B: America Samoa, New Zealand, Samoa, Tahiti
Group C: New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Tonga
HINE TAURE'A ⚽ 🇵🇫 | MEET THE TEAM— FTF (@TahitiFootball_) August 26, 2019
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Three groups fight for four semi-final places before the tournament decision on 14 September. New Zealand defenders and favorites will be further strengthened at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2018 in Uruguay at the end of last year. A dream of results delivered a bronze medal, the nation’s first of all colors on a global scale.
Nine of the New Zealand Uruguay 2018 teams will compete in the Cook Islands. Five squad members – Maggie Jenkins, Aneka Mittendorff, Rose Morton, Gabi Rennie and goalkeeper Nadia Olla – were in the final qualifying cycle for the U-20 World Cup. Olla was also a member of Football Ferns’ squad at the FIFA Women’s World Cup ™ in France.
It will be a first international outing for coaches and the new manager of the Future Ferns Domestic Program, Gemma Lewis. Born in Wales, Lewis was a mentee in the FIFA Coach Mentorship Program and part of the Senior Citizens Coaching Program in France 2019.
“This is a great group of players and we look forward to the challenge on the Cook Islands,” said Lewis. “It’s great to have this experience in the squad for this championship, and we will not take anything for granted if we qualify for the World Cup next year.”