Everything is set to change
The last country on Earth without a national football team may finally join the party as they have unveiled plans to become an independent force in world football.
A country better known for being occupied by the US following the end World War Two, which was used as a hub for nuclear weapons testing, the Marshall Islands are hoping to finally recognise their dream.
Having become a sovereign nation in 1986, the tiny country – with a population of 60,000 – are being given a helping hand from Englishman Lloyd Owers after he started “random conversations” with the president of the country’s football association, Shem Livai, after he saw some of Owers’ blogs.
“It started via emails, then it became easier to speak via WhatsApp because of the time difference,” Owers told BBC Sport.
“Then it got to the stage where I was asked to put together a proposal alongside my own philosophy on how I saw the game growing.”
Owers has only made the lengthy trip to the Marshall Islands once and oversaw the first training session for young children led by the Marshall Islands Soccer Federation (MISF), founded by Livai in 2020.
Their main target though? To achieve Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) membership before hosting fixtures on the global stage.
Explaining why he took on the mammoth project, Owers said: “On a personal level it was the opportunity to be part of something that was as big as this; the only nation in the world without a defined national team.
“But it was also the ambition of it. The federation wants to be part of the OFC, but also wants to eventually become a Fifa member.
“They don’t just want to be playing against local countries, they want to be part of a bigger programme.
“We know we want to be part of World Cup qualifiers. We want be part of the OFC Championship, we want be part of mainstream football.
“I think in 10 years, if we keep going the way the federation wants to push their aims and ambitions, there’s no reason that wouldn’t happen.”
All being well, they are hoping that they can stage their first-ever international fixture in July/August 2024.
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