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Samoa to host Oceania U-19 Football Championships

Samoa will host the Oceania Football Confederation (O.F.C.) men's U-19 Championships in July, which Football Federation of Samoa President Papali’i Samuel Petaia said is a great result for the sport in the country.

The Federation were confirmed as hosts for the event at the O.F.C. Executive Committee meeting held in Auckland, New Zealand on Tuesday.

Papali'i said it was good to get support from the other O.F.C. countries to host the tournament.

“The more tournaments we get, the more exposure our players get… Samoa is always wanting to move ahead in terms of football," he said.

It will be the second major regional football tournament hosted in Samoa since the refurbishment of the F.F.S. stadium complex at Tuanaimato ahead of the Pacific Games last July.

Papali'i said another benefit of hosting the tournament is that Samoa's chances of going well are potentially improved.

“It lifts the boys when they have that home-ground advantage," he said.

Both finalists of the O.F.C. U-19 Championship will qualify for the F.I.F.A. U-20 World Cup, scheduled to be played in Indonesia next year.

Samoa have never previously advanced from the group stage at an Oceania U-19 Championship.

“It’ll be difficult, but it’s not something that’s unachievable," Papali'i said.

He also pointed to the positive of Samoans being able to support the national team, as well as see a high level of football.

“This is the last age group before the seniors, I guess this is the exciting talents that are coming out of all the islands," Papali'i said. 

"It will be a good opportunity for the local population to see the next Tim Cahill or Roy Krishna coming out of the Pacific."

Another matter arising from the O.F.C. Executive Committee meeting was the potential removal of preliminary qualifying rounds for so-called 'developing associations' at regional tournaments.

Most O.F.C. competitions have an initial round where the representative teams from Samoa, American Samoa, Cook Islands and Tonga play off for the right to compete in the tournament itself.

Papali'i said he and the other member association presidents on the Executive Committee are against such qualifiers, so change looks likely.

“At the moment we’re just waiting for the regional office to have a look into the details," he said.

“It doesn’t help with development… when you play bigger teams like Fiji and New Zealand you get thrashed."

Papali'i said like in any other sport, playing regularly against better competition makes you better.

“By eliminating that stage, everyone can have the mindset that ‘we’re just as good as them, we play them year in, year out'," he said.

“We’re trying to lift the level of competition so that everyone quickly develops, rather than playing in your own small isolated groups and then when you get to the real world… that’s when you get scores like 30-0, 20-0."

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