Currently in Auckland participating in the historic OFC B Licence coaching course being run at the OFC Academy, Uele says in terms of development the Tongan association is heading in the right direction.
“We are lucky that we have the foundations of the Just Play and Grassroots programmes
to establish that initial interest in football amongst children which rugby in
Tonga doesn’t have,” Uele says.
“However, in terms of popularity we are a long way behind because rugby can offer opportunities that we can’t.”
He says the majority of people look at the pathways offered by a career in rugby compared with football and see no competition.
“With rugby, people see the international opportunities and the chance to get paid. This means they can provide for their families and country too, and that’s what they are looking for.
“But now with the links with OFC and the development and pathways that we are starting to introduce, hopefully we can offer these opportunities to young football players too.”
With the goal of providing future opportunities to both players and coaches, the federation recently opened the Centre of Excellence and Centres of Development and Uele says the B Licence course has already proven helpful.
“In terms of getting players on the right pathway and lifting the standard of football in Tonga, especially on the coaching side, the course has been good," he says.
“In just the first four days there have already been so many things we have learnt and from my perspective it is all relevant.
"What we need to look at is how we are going to digest all the information and strategies being provided by the instructors here and how we can then apply it to our players back home.
“And not only are we learning from the two instructors, Didier Chambaron and Steve Rutter, but also from the coaches who have come from around the Pacific to participate in this course as well.
“That’s why I’m here, to get ideas – and the more ideas I can get the more beneficial it will be for developing better, more competitive players back in Tonga.”
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