FIFA president Gianni Infantino has challenged the Papua New Guinea Football Association to be a leading symbol of football in the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC).
Infantino arrived in Port Moresby Sunday with his delegation including the OFC president Lambert Maltock and legendary referee Pierluigi Collina among other Fifa officials.
He told PNGFA president John Kapi Natto and Sports Minister Don Polye that PNG was a big country with a growing population and should step up and lead the code in the region.
“You are a big country, the biggest one in Oceania. You have to be a symbol, you have to be a leader of football in the whole region,” Infantino said.
“You have shown it recently with the women’s team who won the OFC Women’s Nations Cup and this is a step in the right direction.
“So let’s work together, let’s commit to make sure that these steps that we have taken together today with the stadium, those are just initial steps of a project that we are working all together as a team.”
Infantino highlighted the PNG women’s football team’s achievement last year in winning their inaugural Nations Cup title that saw them advance to the inter-confederation playoff in February for a spot at the World Cup.
Unfortunately, they bowed out in the playoff to Panama who went on to compete in the current Fifa Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
The Fifa boss flew in from Australia where he witnessed Saturday’s quarterfinal fixture between France and Australia that ended 7-6 (penalties) in favour of the Aussies. He said the World Cup just across PNG’s border was a celebration symbolising women’s football.
“I want you to be part of this global celebration that we are having, we have a World Cup taking place nearby,” said Infantino.
“In the two quarterfinals we had 50,000 spectators in one and 75,000 in another stadium – 125,000 for two quarterfinals and the whole tournament is a celebration of women’s football.
“I am sure that we will spend a great day together today which will be historic in the sense that it starts a new era of soccer in Papua New Guinea, a new era of soccer which will bring this country to shine at the global stage.”.
Meanwhile,PNG Football Association president John Kapi Natto says Fifa president Gianni Infantino’s visit marks an important milestone for the federation as Infantino unveiled the plaque for the refurbished PNG Football Stadium.
Kapi Natto said the renovation was made possible through the Fifa Forward funding with work expected to be completed next month.
Infantino and his delegation were given a tour of the stadium, coinciding with his visit to Oceania Football Confederation members’ associations to see development work carried out through the world football governing body’s financial assistance.
“Today (Sunday) is an exciting occasion for us as the Fifa president will inaugurate this football stadium (PNG Football Stadium) as the new headquarter and home of football in PNG,” said Kapi Natto.
“Our former headquarter used to be in Lae, but our executive committee members have decided in 2019 that our new office has to be in Port Moresby, because it is the capital city, as well as it holds the entrance to the world.
“Nevertheless, I will still have to travel back to Lae at a place called 11-Mile and thank the people of Morobe for being the caretaker of the initial PNG Football Association headquarter for the last 20 years.”
Kapi Natto said the transfer of titles for the stadium from the Sports Ministry (through PNG Sports Foundation) along Fifa’s financial support has enabled the association to refurbish the venue. “Fifa has left a lot of legacy in the city of Port Moresby,” Kapi Natto said.
“During the Fifa Under-20 Women’s World Cup held here in 2016, several of the stadiums were built in partnership between Papua New Guinea government, PNG Football, and Fifa.
Infantino unveiled the plaque at the stadium, followed by a facility tour and an all-stars match that ended 2-1 in favour of the PNG Legends over the Fifa squad.
SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS