At Fairlived, attention is paid to what happens behind the scenes of football and the shocking events on the edge of the pitch. This week is about the introduction of football in the Marshall Islands.
sSaint Kitts and Nevis, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and San Marino. All of them have their own national football team. However, there is still one archipelago in the central Pacific where this is not the case: the Marshall Islands.
The Marshall Islands are almost invisible on the world map. Only by zooming in a little can the tiny dots between Hawaii and Australia be found. The country consists of five islands and 29 atolls (ring-shaped islands formed on coral) and has a population of sixty thousand people. However, its history in football is zero. Simply because they never had a national team.
Oh yeah, there’s one more problem. With current climate change, there is a high probability that seventy percent of the islands will be under water by 2050
The Marshall Islands have never had an official football competition. Until last year, they did not have a single football field and there was a huge shortage of materials, such as balls and football boots. Moreover, American sports such as basketball, softball and baseball are many times more popular. In short: The Marshall Islands do not have a football culture.
Oh yeah, there’s one more problem. With current climate change, there is a high probability that seventy percent of the islands will be under water by 2050.
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However, the country now has ambitions to become a member of FIFA within ten years and participate in international competitions. One of the men behind this passionate desire is Englishman Lloyd Owers (33 years old). He has become the Pacific nation’s first FIFA technical director since last December.
Owers is pictured via video call while far from the tropical shores of the Marshall Islands. His hair and beard are wet. “I just went for a quick walk with the dog and I was completely soaked,” he laughs from Oxfordshire, England, where he does most of his work. ‘The weather is terrible here. Although things could also change dramatically in the Marshall Islands, by the way. I’ve been there once on a sunny day. Ten minutes later, all roads were flooded.
Owers has always loved learning about different cultures through football. In the past, he worked with the English Association in countries such as Canada, America and Sweden. He has always held different jobs in football and in the meantime he has written for a football blog. Coincidentally, Marshall Islands football president Shem Levi regularly read his articles. They contacted each other via WhatsApp and talked to each other at the most random times due to the eleven hour time difference.
He has been the head coach of a country eight thousand miles away from his birthplace for almost a year
After a lot of messages back and forth, Levi at one point asked if Owers would be interested in becoming an FA head coach. There was no budget to employ him full-time, meaning he had to keep a side job, but the Englishman still grabbed the adventure with both hands.
Owers starts laughing now. He has been the head coach of a country eight thousand miles away from his birthplace for almost a year. He has established a football structure in a country that had never been heard of a few months ago.
His first step was to involve other Britons in the project. Contact Justin Whaley. He has a background as a coach, has worked on football projects around the world and also has experience in journalism. He was the perfect guy to run the communications side. Matt Webb joins as Commercial Director to handle Marketing and Sponsorship. The trio got to work from a distance.
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