The President of the Football Federation of Samoa (FFS) has expressed his sincere gratitude towards the F.I.F.A. President Gianni Infantino and his delegation for gracing Samoa with their presence.
In an interview with the media on Sunday evening, Papali’i Sam L Petaia articulated that FFS did not have the right words to describe how they felt after playing host for the head of FIFA and his delegation.
President Gianni Infantino and his delegations touched down in Samoa after visiting the Cook Islands and American Samoa in the weekend.
They were taken by FFS and retired Australian Footballer, Tim Cahill to attend a church service at the Congregational Christian Church Samoa (CCCS) parish at Vaivase-Tai on Sunday morning.
Infantino and his delegations then met with the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio.
FFS then organised a friendly fun game with Infantino, Cahill and retired Italian professional footballer, Alesandro Del Piero and local players and officials in Samoa.
Papali’i said the President’s visit is everything they have ever wanted and hoped for to develop football in Samoa.
“He is the top, there’s no one higher than him in the football world and everything opens up once he agrees or makes up his mind on things,” Papali’i said.
“So we are very honoured to have him in Samoa and to see firsthand what we are trying to develop and where we are at right now with the sport. So this is a massive opportunity for Samoa and for the Football Federation.”
When asked about some of the key issues they’ve discussed with Infantino, Papali’i said they have proposed to strengthen their partnership with the Government of Samoa and other stakeholders.
“We understand that football is not as famous as other sports in Samoa and it is not our national sport, but if we look at the projects and the support we get from the government, no other sports have the facilities we have.
“So it’s a partnership that we hope to continue moving forward and it’s a great example of private and public partnership with the government and with FIFA.
“It’s a win-win situation for both the country and also our federation. The government can support us in terms of promoting sports and sports tourism. Our country relies on tourism and bringing tournaments (international) to Samoa because of the good quality of facilities that we have will boost our economy.
“We can only build a strong partnership.”
While it was unfortunate that the FIFA boss spent only two nights in Samoa and arrived on a Sunday, a day considered as “resting day” in Samoa, Papali’i said they have used the grand opportunity to their advantage.
“We don’t have control over his itinerary and we understand that he is a very busy man. He is the head of over 200 members which is bigger than the United Nations so to get him to spend a day in Samoa is a massive thing for us.
“We are fortunate to have him spend two nights in Samoa. Some other countries only had him for only a couple of hours.
“In a way, we appreciate that he got to spend a Sunday in Samoa as we took him to church with us. He got to see that religion plays an important role in Samoa and we always fuse religion and our culture in all that we do even in sports.
“I don’t think any other country in the world has done that before.
“While we hoped it was any other day of the week as we would’ve brought in everyone, all the clubs, the kids and our people. Imagine what we could have done if he had arrived on a week-day.
“However, we are very fortunate and thankful for the time he has spent here in Samoa and the discussions we’ve had since his arrival.
“For him to set root in a country that’s not strong in terms of football compared to rugby is something big for us and we are very very lucky.
“It shows the type of person he is, he wants to grow the sport and ensure that the development is improving and to have him over is a blessing and we are very grateful,” he said.
SOURCE: SAMOA OBSERVER/PACNEWS