The continuing COVID-19 crisis in Fiji has left the women’s national team preparations in limbo.
The wider training squad has been expected to get their preparations back underway last month, but with Fiji experiencing a second wave of the pandemic, coach Marika Rodu’s well laid plans had to be thrown out.
However, he remains optimistic about getting preparations back on track in the near future, while acknowledging it all comes down to how soon Fiji emerges from the current wave with player and staff health and safety the priority.
“The plan for us is still the same, working towards July 2022. We have more than 12 months to get back on track and we can only hope that the situation normalises in Fiji at the earliest,” Rodu said.
Although the dates for the FIFA World Cup 2023 and the playoff tournament were unveiled last week, the qualifying competition for the Oceania region remains up in the air, with the timeframe for opening up the region still uncertain.
Rodu said despite the regional uncertainty, they will continue working towards July 2022 as the tentative date for the OFC Women’s Nations Cup.
“I have rescheduled five short camps this year, hoping we get the all-clear by July 2021 to resume sporting activities in the country. In 2022 we have planned to have five short camps and one long camp leading to the Nations Cup in July 2022.”
The first camp for the Fiji national women’s team was held in April with 29 players included, but Rodu is quick to point out that with more competitions for women in Fiji there remains plenty of opportunities over the next 12 months for players to turn the selectors’ heads.
“I started selecting players last year during the Women’s IDC here in Suva, and we had four rounds of the Women’s Super League already whereby I continued to monitor the players and their current performance,” Rodu said of the selection process so far.
“I have also consistently made efforts to visit clubs and conducted regional camps prior to the start of the Women’s Super league, so I have seen a lot of the girls and I am confident of the players’ progress so far, but it is a matter of getting them together now.
“With such a long lead-in to the qualifying competition, I will of course continue scouting. There are a lot of players in the age bracket of 17-20 years and it’s important to see their progress and when the time is right, they will be given the opportunity to train with the national team.”
The increase in competitions for women in Fiji reflects a regional push not only for more competitions, but for increased competitiveness both domestically, regionally and internationally.
“Women’s football has evolved in terms of the competition structure in Fiji and we can only be grateful to the assistance provided by FIFA and OFC in ensuring women’s football develops in the country,” Rodu said.
“The league has provided the opportunity for me to see how the girls present themselves in game situations, and see if they are ready to take on the responsibility of representing the country.”
Marika Rodu offers tips for players to help stay healthy and keep fit during the current lockdown in Fiji: