Infrastructure Hinders Tuvalu’s FIFA Bid: Tai Nicholas

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Infrastructure Hinders Tuvalu’s FIFA Bid: Tai Nicholas Tuvalu claims regional football body OFC not supportive

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Dec. 18, 2013) – The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) has hit back at claims it's thwarting Tuvalu's bid to join the world governing body FIFA.

Tuvalu wants a FIFA membership so it can compete in the Oceania Cup and World Cup qualifying.

The OFC General Secretary Tai Nicholas says his organisation is doing everything it can to help Tuvalu.

But he says the lack of infrastructure in the country is the main problem.

"The problem with Tuvalu is that it's so small they can't find the available space to put a stadium," Mr Nicholas told Pacific Beat.

"That's why they train on the airport.

"When the plane lands they have to leave and they can go back and train when the plane takes off again."

Tuvalu's campaign to join FIFA has been backed for the last four years by a group of sympathisers from the Netherlands, who call themselves the Dutch Support Tuvalu Foundation.

Paul Driessen is part of that group and is now working for Tuvalu Football Association.

Last week he accused the OFC of not supporting Tuvalu's ambitions.

"I don't know exactly why but maybe it gives them a lot of administrative work," he told Pacific Beat.

"It's quite clear that Tuvalu doesn't receive a lot of support.

"For example the OFC never promotes Tuvalu in any single way on their website and there's very little communication, and that's quite frustrating."

But Mr Nicholas says his organisation is doing everything it can to help Tuvalu.

"It's very disappointing that he makes these comments in the media when he knows full well what the requirements are," he said.

"We provide financial grants to them every year, we provide technical courses, footballs, coaching courses.

"We actually even help pay for them to come to OFC tournaments."

Mr Nicholas says it's not just the lack of international-standard facilities that is the problem.

"All the 11 OFC members have stadiums, they have hotels, they have airports, they have connections," he said.

"So if we say tomorrow can you host a New Zealand team or a Cook Islands team Tuvalu says that they can't.

"Unfortunately there's not one hotel which a team could stay in in Tuvalu."

But the OFC says it's eager to continue working with Tuvalu in its bid.

"We're keen to invest some money to help get a stadium and if we're talking about $200,000 or $300,000 then we're happy to facilitate and find these funds so Tuvalu can get a membership," Mr Nicholas said.

"But the problem with Tuvalu football at this present time is they haven't even submitted a formal application to FIFA... because the last file is incomplete."

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