There’s every chance you have not only not heard of football in Kiribati, but also in the Republic of Kiribati itself. But, country it very well is and it turns out they have a vibrant football scene currently being led by a new very ambitious president.
Said president is senior Police officer Eriato Rebo, who Young Pioneer Tours went to meet on our Least Visited Countries Tour.
Why would YPT meet the president of the Kiribati Island Football Federation (KIFF)? Well as it turns out we have more than just a passing interest in the development of football within the region and beyond.
History of football in Kiribati
As a former British colony in the Pacific Islands sport was only going to go of two ways for this multi-island nation, with soccer in Kiribati beating out Rugby League, or Union.
Their football career began with independence in 1979 and an appearance at the 1979 Island Games, continuing into the development of the KIFF, a few different domestic championships, as well as Associate Status of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) which it achieved back in 2007, so almost 20 years ago.
Since then it was also briefly a member of CONIFA, which looked after non-FIFA nations.
Achieving OFC full membership
Whilst Associate and Full Membership of the OFC might not sound all that big a deal it is quite differently the difference between $30,000 a year and the millions offered not just from the OFC, but also FIFA.
And this according to new President Eriati Reebo, who insists I call him Eddie is precisely his aim.
“In my four year term I want us in the OFC and competition at both club and regional levels”, with him having big ideas particularly with regards to the club game.
“We have the Tarawa (capital) Champions League, which for all intents will act as our national competition and hopefully lead to us entering a team into the OFC Champions League. But, we are also aiming to expand all island competitions, such as the Kiribati National Championship, as well as a new Police Cup, which will be open to all”.
And while the future domestically was looking bright, internationally “Eddie” also had big ideas stating “We are trying to not just meet OFC requirements, but genuinely develop the game here, which non only includes the men playing more internationally, but also the development of our women’s side”.
And as for a potential Pacific Futsal Cup, he was not only. Keen, but stated that Kiribati could also host a competition that may well include Nauru, as well as long “associate” rivals Tuvalu.
“We are ready to host, not to mention take on Tuvalu in a friendly if they are ready for the challenge”.
The ball is very much now in the court of the OFC, Tuvalu and fans with a passion for the more obscure side of world soccer.
See the countries yourself on one of our Least Visited Counties Tours